Monday, February 13, 2012

The "Ring of Fire" is an arc stretching from New Zealand, along the eastern edge of Asia, north across the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, and south along the coast of North and South America.

The "Ring of Fire" is an arc stretching from New Zealand, along the eastern edge of Asia, north across the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, and south along the coast of North and South America. The Ring of Fire is composed over 75% of the world's active and dormant volcanoes.
This huge ring of volcanic and seismic (earthquake) activity was noticed and described before the invention of the theory of plate tectonics theory. We now know that the Ring of Fire is located at the borders of the Pacific Plate and other major tectonic plates.

Plates are like giant rafts of the earth's surface which often slide next to, collide with, and are forced underneath other plates. Around the Ring of Fire, the Pacific Plate is colliding with and sliding underneath other plates. This process is known as subduction and the volcanically and seismically active area nearby is known as a subduction zone. There is a tremendous amount of energy created by these plates and they easily melt rock into magma, which rises to the surface as lava and forms volcanoes.

Volcanoes are temporary features on the earth's surface and there are currently about 1500 active volcanoes in the world. About ten percent of these are located in the United States.

This is a listing of major volcanic areas in the Ring of Fire:

In South America the Nazca plate is colliding with the South American plate. This has created the Andes and volcanoes such as Cotopaxi and Azul.
In Central America, the tiny Cocos plate is crashing into the North American plate and is therefore responsible for the Mexican volcanoes of Popocatepetl and Paricutun (which rose up from a cornfield in 1943 and became a instant mountains).
Between Northern California and British Columbia, the Pacific, Juan de Fuca, and Gorda plates have built the Cascades and the infamous Mount Saint Helens, which erupted in 1980.
Alaska's Aleutian Islands are growing as the Pacific plate hits the North American plate. The deep Aleutian Trench has been created at the subduction zone with a maximum depth of 25,194 feet (7679 meters).
From Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula to Japan, the subduction of the Pacific plate under the Eurasian plate is responsible for Japanese islands and volcanoes (such as Mt. Fuji).
The final section of the Ring of Fire exists where the Indo-Australian plate subducts under the Pacific plate and has created volcanoes in the New Guinea and Micronesian areas. Near New Zealand, the Pacific Plate slides under the Indo-Australian plate.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Some 80 percent of all the planet's earthquakes occur along the rim of the Pacific Ocean, called the "Ring of Fire" because of the preponderance of volcanic activity there as well.

Earthquakes, also called temblors, can be so tremendously destructive, it’s hard to imagine they occur by the thousands every day around the world, usually in the form of small tremors.

Some 80 percent of all the planet's earthquakes occur along the rim of the Pacific Ocean, called the "Ring of Fire" because of the preponderance of volcanic activity there as well. Most earthquakes occur at fault zones, where tectonic plates—giant rock slabs that make up the Earth's upper layer—collide or slide against each other. These impacts are usually gradual and unnoticeable on the surface; however, immense stress can build up between plates. When this stress is released quickly, it sends massive vibrations, called seismic waves, often hundreds of miles through the rock and up to the surface. Other quakes can occur far from faults zones when plates are stretched or squeezed.

Scientists assign a magnitude rating to earthquakes based on the strength and duration of their seismic waves. A quake measuring 3 to 5 is considered minor or light; 5 to 7 is moderate to strong; 7 to 8 is major; and 8 or more is great.

On average, a magnitude 8 quake strikes somewhere every year and some 10,000 people die in earthquakes annually. Collapsing buildings claim by far the majority of lives, but the destruction is often compounded by mud slides, fires, floods, or tsunamis. Smaller temblors that usually occur in the days following a large earthquake can complicate rescue efforts and cause further death and destruction.

Loss of life can be avoided through emergency planning, education, and the construction of buildings that sway rather than break under the stress of an earthquake.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Some impacts from increasing temperatures are alre...

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Some impacts from increasing temperatures are alre...: The planet is warming, from North Pole to South Pole, and everywhere in between. Globally, the mercury is already up more than 1 degree Fahr...

Some impacts from increasing temperatures are already happening.

The planet is warming, from North Pole to South Pole, and everywhere in between. Globally, the mercury is already up more than 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius), and even more in sensitive polar regions. And the effects of rising temperatures aren’t waiting for some far-flung future. They’re happening right now. Signs are appearing all over, and some of them are surprising. The heat is not only melting glaciers and sea ice, it’s also shifting precipitation patterns and setting animals on the move.

Some impacts from increasing temperatures are already happening.

Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles. This includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica and Greenland, and Arctic sea ice.
Researcher Bill Fraser has tracked the decline of the Adélie penguins on Antarctica, where their numbers have fallen from 32,000 breeding pairs to 11,000 in 30 years.
Sea level rise became faster over the last century.
Some butterflies, foxes, and alpine plants have moved farther north or to higher, cooler areas.
Precipitation (rain and snowfall) has increased across the globe, on average.
Spruce bark beetles have boomed in Alaska thanks to 20 years of warm summers. The insects have chewed up 4 million acres of spruce trees.
Other effects could happen later this century, if warming continues.

Sea levels are expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 and 59 centimeters) by the end of the century, and continued melting at the poles could add between 4 and 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters).
Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger.
Species that depend on one another may become out of sync. For example, plants could bloom earlier than their pollinating insects become active.
Floods and droughts will become more common. Rainfall in Ethiopia, where droughts are already common, could decline by 10 percent over the next 50 years.
Less fresh water will be available. If the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru continues to melt at its current rate, it will be gone by 2100, leaving thousands of people who rely on it for drinking water and electricity without a source of either.
Some diseases will spread, such as malaria carried by mosquitoes.
Ecosystems will change—some species will move farther north or become more successful; others won’t be able to move and could become extinct. Wildlife research scientist Martyn Obbard has found that since the mid-1980s, with less ice on which to live and fish for food, polar bears have gotten considerably skinnier. Polar bear biologist Ian Stirling has found a similar pattern in Hudson Bay. He fears that if sea ice disappears, the polar bears will as well.
Source for climate information: IPCC, 2007

Acid rain describes any form of precipitation with high levels of nitric and sulfuric acids. It can also occur in the form of snow, fog, and tiny bits of dry material that settle to Earth.

Acid rain describes any form of precipitation with high levels of nitric and sulfuric acids. It can also occur in the form of snow, fog, and tiny bits of dry material that settle to Earth.

Rotting vegetation and erupting volcanoes release some chemicals that can cause acid rain, but most acid rain falls because of human activities. The biggest culprit is the burning of fossil fuels by coal-burning power plants, factories, and automobiles.

When humans burn fossil fuels, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are released into the atmosphere. These chemical gases react with water, oxygen, and other substances to form mild solutions of sulfuric and nitric acid. Winds may spread these acidic solutions across the atmosphere and over hundreds of miles. When acid rain reaches Earth, it flows across the surface in runoff water, enters water systems, and sinks into the soil.

Acid rain has many ecological effects, but none is greater than its impact on lakes, streams, wetlands, and other aquatic environments. Acid rain makes waters acidic and causes them to absorb the aluminum that makes its way from soil into lakes and streams. This combination makes waters toxic to crayfish, clams, fish, and other aquatic animals.

Some species can tolerate acidic waters better than others. However, in an interconnected ecosystem, what impacts some species eventually impacts many more throughout the food chain—including non-aquatic species such as birds.

Acid rain also damages forests, especially those at higher elevations. It robs the soil of essential nutrients and releases aluminum in the soil, which makes it hard for trees to take up water. Trees' leaves and needles are also harmed by acids.

The effects of acid rain, combined with other environmental stressors, leave trees and plants less able to withstand cold temperatures, insects, and disease. The pollutants may also inhibit trees' ability to reproduce. Some soils are better able to neutralize acids than others. In areas where the soil's "buffering capacity" is low, the harmful effects of acid rain are much greater.

The only way to fight acid rain is by curbing the release of the pollutants that cause it. This means burning fewer fossil fuels. Many governments have tried to curb emissions by cleaning up industry smokestacks and promoting alternative fuel sources. These efforts have met with mixed results. But even if acid rain could be stopped today, it would still take many years for its harmful effects to disappear.

Individuals can also help prevent acid rain by conserving energy. The less electricity people use in their homes, the fewer chemicals power plants will emit. Vehicles are also major fossil fuel users, so drivers can reduce emissions by using public transportation, carpooling, biking, or simply walking wherever possible.

The term ‘acid rain’ means any form of precipitation like rain, fog, snow, or hail that contains harmful substances such as nitrogen and sulfur oxides.

The term ‘acid rain’ means any form of precipitation like rain, fog, snow, or hail that contains harmful substances such as nitrogen and sulfur oxides. The major human sources do come from the industry, transportation, and a variety of power plants. Strictly speaking these industrial amounts of nitrogen, sulfur oxides and general pollutants from the air cause a drastic increase of the acidity of the precipitation and do also harm plants, humans, and buildings.

In order to save the climate and to protect the general air quality the Air Pollution & Climate Secretariat, formerly known as the Swedish NGO Secretariat in Acid Rain, tries to promote awareness of the variety of problems being associated with air pollution. Strictly speaking the Air Pollution & Climate Secretariat is a joint venture between five Swedish environmental organizations. This secretariat operates with the chief purpose to achieve the required reduction of the emission of air and industrial pollutants, including greenhouse gases. Consequently those emissions should be brought down to a level that our environment and nature are able to tolerate without suffering any damage regarding plants, buildings, and humans.

Fact is that air pollution affects both humans and the nature. Most obvious are the so-called direct effects on human health. Results of recent research show that small particles in the air caused more than 350,000 premature deaths within the 25 countries of the European Union in 2000. Furthermore it has to be taken into consideration that there are also other air pollutants as well as indirect effects on nature and humans. Those indirect effects include effects such as toxic groundwater and corrosion of materials. Many people use so-called blinds and/or marquees, also called Markisen in German, in order to protect for instance their terrace or patio from polluted air particles.

Due to drastic air pollution and the worsening of the general air quality, the climate does also get affected. If the climate gets warmer it affects a human’s health. A number of researchers fear that a warmer climate in the course of a general climate change may cause more extreme weather conditions. Strictly speaking this would also lead to more injuries and deaths being caused by hurricanes, flooding as well as to property damage. Another effect resulting from a warmer climate is the spread of a variety of insect transmitted diseases such as malaria and bilharzias.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Acid rain

"Acid rain" means the deposition of acidic components such as sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides, that is, sulphuric acid (H2SO4),
ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) and nitric acid (HNO3) in rain, snow, fog, dew, or dry particles.

Acid rain was first reported in Manchester, England way back in 1852.

The excess acidity in rain is a result of air pollutants, mainly sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxide by the transformation of acidic components to acidic particles and vapours. Acid rain thus occurs when these acidic gases react in the Earth’s atmosphere with oxygen, water and other chemicals to form a variety of acidic compounds. Sunlight increases most of these reactions. The primary sources of these pollutants are cars, buses, trucks, trains, and industrial or power plants.

A more precise term for Acid rain is ‘acid deposition,’ which can be classified in two parts: wet and dry deposition.

Wet Acid deposition refers to acidic rain, snowfall and fog. As this acidic rain flows over the ground, it affects a range of animals, plants and living things.

Dry Acid deposition refers to acidic gases and particles. This occurs when the wind blows the acidic particles and gases causes them to stick to cars, trees, homes and buildings.

Acid rain is measured with the help of a scale known as “pH”. As acids release hydrogen ions, the acid content of a solution is based on the concentration of hydrogen ions and is expressed as "pH. When the ‘pH’ of a substance is low, it is more acidic, thus making the ‘pH’ of acidic rain, unusually low. Rain measuring between 0 and 5 on the pH scale is acidic and therefore called "acid rain."

Acid rain affects the whole environment. Polluted rain enters surface waters and permeates into the groundwater making the aluminium in the soil reactive which in turn leaches out the nutrients. This causes some fish to produce extra mucus around their gills, stopping ventilation.

Acidic rain damages trees and plants through the decrease in vital soil nutrients. Biodiversity in areas affected by acid rain is likely to be poor and therefore a great threat to humans in the long run.

Acid rain accelerates weathering and deforestation along with serious acidic deposition in rivers, streams, and other water bodies. It not only disturbs the delicate ecological balance with faster corrosion process, it also causes buildings and monuments of historical value to erode with premature disintegration.

In the U.S., Canada, and Europe, pollutant controls and emissions trading programs have significantly reduced the amount of sulfur dioxide from industrial sources. China, Eastern Europe and Russia are currently the regions most affected by acidification.


Air pollution is by far the most harmful form of pollution in our environment. Air pollution is cause by the injurious smoke emitted by cars, buses, trucks, trains, and factories, namely sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Even smoke from burning leaves and cigarettes are harmful to the environment causing a lot of damage to man and the atmosphere. Evidence of increasing air pollution is seen in lung cancer, asthma, allergies, and various breathing problems along with severe and irreparable damage to flora and fauna. Even the most natural phenomenon of migratory birds has been hampered, with severe air pollution preventing them from reaching their seasonal metropolitan destinations of centuries.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), released from refrigerators, air-conditioners, deodorants and insect repellents cause severe damage to the Earth’s environment. This gas has slowly damaged the atmosphere and depleted the ozone layer leading to global warming.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), released from refrigerators, air-conditioners, deodorants and insect repellents cause severe damage to the Earth’s environment. This gas has slowly damaged the atmosphere and depleted the ozone layer leading to global warming.

Water pollution caused industrial waste products released into lakes, rivers, and other water bodies, has made marine life no longer hospitable. Humans pollute water with large scale disposal of garbage, flowers, ashes and other household waste. In many rural areas one can still find people bathing and cooking in the same water, making it incredibly filthy. Acid rain further adds to water pollution in the water. In addition to these, thermal pollution and the depletion of dissolved oxygen aggravate the already worsened condition of the water bodies. Water pollution can also indirectly occur as an offshoot of soil pollution – through surface runoff and leaching to groundwater.

Noise pollution, soil pollution and light pollution too are the damaging the environment at an alarming rate. Noise pollution include aircraft noise, noise of cars, buses, and trucks, vehicle horns, loudspeakers, and industry noise, as well as high-intensity sonar effects which are extremely harmful for the environment.

Maximum noise pollution occurs due to one of modern science’s best discoveries – the motor vehicle, which is responsible for about ninety percent of all unwanted noise worldwide.

Soil pollution, which can also be called soil contamination, is a result of acid rain, polluted water, fertilizers etc., which leads to bad crops. Soil contamination occurs when chemicals are released by spill or underground storage tank leakage which releases heavy contaminants into the soil. These may include hydrocarbons, heavy metals, MTBE, herbicides, pesticides and chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Montreal Protocol and Ozone depletion

The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion. The treaty was opened for signature on September 16, 1987, and entered into force on January 1, 1989, followed by a first meeting in Helsinki, May 1989. Since then, it has undergone seven revisions, in 1990 (London), 1991 (Nairobi), 1992 (Copenhagen), 1993 (Bangkok), 1995 (Vienna), 1997 (Montreal), and 1999 (Beijing). It is believed that if the international agreement is adhered to, the ozone layer is expected to recover by 2050. Due to its widespread adoption and implementation it has been hailed as an example of exceptional international co-operation, with Kofi Annan quoted as saying that "perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date has been the Montreal Protocol". It has been ratified by 196 states and the European Union.

Since the Montreal Protocol came into effect, the atmospheric concentrations of the most important chlorofluorocarbons and related chlorinated hydrocarbons have either leveled off or decreased. Halon concentrations have continued to increase, as the halons presently stored in fire extinguishers are released, but their rate of increase has slowed and their abundances are expected to begin to decline by about 2020. Also, the concentration of the HCFCs increased drastically at least partly because for many uses CFCs (e.g. used as solvents or refrigerating agents) were substituted with HCFCs. While there have been reports of attempts by individuals to circumvent the ban, e.g. by smuggling CFCs from undeveloped to developed nations, the overall level of compliance has been high. In consequence, the Montreal Protocol has often been called the most successful international environmental agreement to date.

Ozone depletion describes two distinct but related phenomena observed since the late 1970s: a steady decline of about 4% per decade in the total volume of ozone in Earth's stratosphere (the ozone layer), and a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone over Earth's polar regions. The latter phenomenon is referred to as the ozone hole. In addition to these well-known stratospheric phenomena, there are also springtime polar tropospheric ozone depletion events.

CFCs and other contributory substances are referred to as ozone-depleting substances (ODS). Since the ozone layer prevents most harmful UVB wavelengths (280–315 nm) of ultraviolet light (UV light) from passing through the Earth's atmosphere, observed and projected decreases in ozone have generated worldwide concern leading to adoption of the Montreal Protocol that bans the production of CFCs, halons, and other ozone-depleting chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethane. It is suspected that a variety of biological consequences such as increases in skin cancer, cataracts, damage to plants, and reduction of plankton populations in the ocean's photic zone may result from the increased UV exposure due to ozone depletion.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other halogenated ozone depleting substances (ODS) are mainly responsible for man-made chemical ozone depletion. The total amount of effective halogens (chlorine and bromine) in the stratosphere can be calculated and are known as the equivalent effective stratospheric chlorine (EESC).

CFCs were invented by Thomas Midgley, Jr. in the 1920s. They were used in air conditioning/cooling units, as aerosol spray propellants prior to the 1980s, and in the cleaning processes of delicate electronic equipment. They also occur as by-products of some chemical processes. No significant natural sources have ever been identified for these compounds — their presence in the atmosphere is due almost entirely to human manufacture.

The Antarctic ozone hole is an area of the Antarctic stratosphere in which the recent ozone levels have dropped to as low as 33% of their pre-1975 values. The ozone hole occurs during the Antarctic spring, from September to early December, as strong westerly winds start to circulate around the continent and create an atmospheric container. Within this polar vortex, over 50% of the lower stratospheric ozone is destroyed during the Antarctic spring.

Since the ozone layer absorbs UVB ultraviolet light from the sun, ozone layer depletion is expected to increase surface UVB levels, which could lead to damage, including increase in skin cancer. This was the reason for the Montreal Protocol. Although decreases in stratospheric ozone are well-tied to CFCs and there are good theoretical reasons to believe that decreases in ozone will lead to increases in surface UVB, there is no direct observational evidence linking ozone depletion to higher incidence of skin cancer in human beings. This is partly because UVA, which has also been implicated in some forms of skin cancer, is not absorbed by ozone, and it is nearly impossible to control statistics for lifestyle changes in the populace.

kyoto protocol

The Protocol was initially adopted on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, and entered into force on 16 February 2005. As of September 2011, 191 states have signed and ratified the protocol. The only remaining signatory not to have ratified the protocol is the United States. Other United Nations member states which did not ratify the protocol are Afghanistan, Andorra and South Sudan. In December 2011, Canada denounced the Protocol.

Under the Protocol, 37 countries ("Annex I countries") commit themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases (GHG) (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and two groups of gases (hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons) produced by them, and all member countries give general commitments. At negotiations, Annex I countries (including the US) collectively agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% on average for the period 2008-2012. This reduction is relative to their annual emissions in a base year, usually 1990. Since the US has not ratified the treaty, the collective emissions reduction of Annex I Kyoto countries falls from 5.2% to 4.2% below base year.

The main aim of the Kyoto Protocol is to contain emissions of the main anthropogenic (i.e., human-emitted) greenhouse gases (GHGs) in ways that reflect underlying national differences in GHG emissions, wealth, and capacity to make the reductions. The treaty follows the main principles agreed in the original 1992 UN Framework Convention. According to the treaty, in 2012, Annex I Parties who have ratified the treaty must have fulfilled their obligations of greenhouse gas emissions limitations established for the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period (2008–2012).
The five principal concepts of the Kyoto Protocol are:
Commitments for the Annex I Parties. The main feature of the Protocol lies in establishing commitments for the reduction of greenhouse gases that are legally binding for Annex I Parties. The Annex I Parties took on legally binding commitments based on the Berlin Mandate, which was a part of UNFCCC negotiations leading up to the Protocol.
Implementation. In order to meet the objectives of the Protocol, Annex I Parties are required to prepare policies and measures for the reduction of greenhouse gases in their respective countries. In addition, they are required to increase the absorption of these gases and utilize all mechanisms available, such as joint implementation, the clean development mechanism and emissions trading, in order to be rewarded with credits that would allow more greenhouse gas emissions at home.
Minimizing Impacts on Developing Countries by establishing an adaptation fund for climate change.
Accounting, Reporting and Review in order to ensure the integrity of the Protocol.
Compliance. Establishing a Compliance Committee to enforce compliance with the commitments under the Protocol.

The Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the third session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 3) in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997. In accordance with Article 24, it was open for signature from 16 March 1998 to 15 March 1999 at United Nations Headquarters, New York. By that date the Protocol had received 84 signatures.

Pursuant to Article 22, the Protocol is subject to ratification, acceptance, approval or accession by Parties to the UNFCCC. Parties to the UNFCCC that have not signed the Protocol may accede to it at any time.

The Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005 in accordance with Article 23, that is the ninetieth day after the date on which not less than 55 Parties to the UNFCCC, incorporating Parties included in Annex I which accounted in total for at least 55 % of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties included in Annex I, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Currently, there are 193 Parties (192 States and 1 regional economic integration organization) to the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC. The total percentage of Annex I Parties emissions is 63.7%.


Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace by:
Catalysing an energy revolution to address the number one threat facing our planet: climate change.
Defending our oceans by challenging wasteful and destructive fishing, and creating a global network of marine reserves.
Protecting the world’s remaining ancient forests which are depended on by many animals, plants and people.
Working for disarmament and peace by reducing dependence on finite resources and calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Creating a toxin free future with safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals in today's products and manufacturing.
Campaigning for sustainable agriculture by encouraging socially and ecologically responsible farming practices.


SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Biomass: Biomass, in ecology, is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time. Biomass can refer to species b...


Biomass, in ecology, is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time. Biomass can refer to species biomass, which is the mass of one or more species, or to community biomass, which is the mass of all species in the community. It can include microorganisms, plants or animals. The mass can be expressed as the average mass per unit area, or as the total mass in the community.

An ecological pyramid is a graphical representation which shows, for a given ecosystem, the relationship between biomass or biological productivity and trophic levels.
A biomass pyramid shows the amount of biomass at each trophic level.
A productivity pyramid shows the production or turn-over in biomass at each trophic level.
An ecological pyramid provides a snapshot in time of an ecological community.