Forecasting the Future Climate – Part 2

The news from this Midwestern farm is not good. The past four years of heavy rains and flash flooding here in southern Minnesota have left me worried about the future of agriculture in America’s grain belt. For some time computer models of climate change have been predicting just these kinds of weather patterns, but seeing them unfold on our farm has been harrowing nonetheless.” Jack Hedin, Minnesota farmer, NYT Op/ed November 27, 2010 [1]

Tony Noerpel

Jack Hedin continues “Climate change, I believe, may eventually pose an existential threat to my way of life.” Let’s be clear. Any existential threat to American farming is an existential threat to America. Maybe Rush Limbaugh can get by on Oxycontin, but the rest of us have to eat.

Last week, we showed that even the lowest estimate, the Rutledge forecast [2], for remaining recoverable fossil fuels may lead to a major extinction event because of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and rapidly increasing ocean acidification. The rate of ocean acidification is ten times larger than the rate during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, 55 million years ago (Pelejero [3]). The lowest credible estimate results in a peak production of all fossil fuels in 2024, just 14 years from now. Therefore, in this scenario and without proactive effort, it is reasonable to assume we will cut down every tree on the planet to keep warm and cook our food. Thus a loss of all forests and corals suggests a major extinction event will occur even with the lowest credible estimates for remaining fossil fuels. Both extirpations are already underway. All other estimates are much worse in terms of species extinction.

Table 1 shows the present and pre-industry CO2, temperature and sea level. According to Hansen [4], there is between 0.6 and 1.4 degrees C, warming in the pipeline. This agrees with what happened during the last interglacial period, the Eemian, 125,000 years ago [5 and 6]. The notation kya means thousands of years ago. Note that with only 300 ppmV (parts per million by volume) the Earth surface temperature was 1.9 degrees C higher than the pre-industrial climate and 1.1 degrees higher than today’s climate. The frightening thing is that sea levels, from Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheet melting, were between 6 and 9 meters or 18 and 28 feet higher than today.

In order to melt ice sheets takes energy delivered over time into the Earth system. The current radiation imbalance of the Earth is about 1.6 Watts/meter squared [7]. A Watt is a measure of energy flow, a Joule per second, where a Joule is a measure of energy. Over time, this energy heats the oceans and evaporates water, and heats the glaciers melting them in addition to heating the Earth surface. Melting glaciers is a wet process which takes considerably less time than building the glaciers in the first place. How fast the glaciers melt is a controversial subject. People generally speak of sea level rise within this century, as if sea levels will not continue to rise after that. This adds unnecessary confusion and considerably to the name calling. We see that Al Gore is in fact correct in his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, as sea levels during the Eemian inform us that 6 meters of sea level rise is not at all an unreasonable expectation and may already be unavoidable. We also know that sea levels can rise fast because that is what they did. Between 14,000 and 16,000 years ago, as the Earth emerged from the last glacial maximum, sea levels rose between 5 and 6 meters per century for some time. Also between 8,260 and 7,680 years ago sea levels increased an average of 5 meters per century over 600 years. Both estimates are from Ward [8]. Our predicament is, in fact, much worse.

During the Pliocene, 2 to 5 million years ago [9, 10, 11 and 12], atmospheric carbon dioxide was between 300 and 425 ppmV. Surface temperatures were 2 to 4 degrees higher than pre-industrial values and the sea level was 25 meters (75 feet) higher than today. Note that we are at the upper end of the Pliocene atmospheric carbon range. Recall from last week that we will be well above the Pliocene upper limit for hundreds of years. As the radiation imbalance persists, energy accumulates which continues to melt the polar ice. During the Miocene, 15 million years ago [13], atmospheric carbon dioxide was above 450 ppmV, which is where we are headed, and sea levels were between 25 and 40 meters above today’s levels.

If atmospheric carbon dioxide reaches 750 ppmV, all of the great ice sheets may melt resulting in 66 meters of sea level rise [14].

What if Rogner is correct [14] and we burn all of that fossil fuel? We know how to compute the increase in Carbon Dixoide within a first order using the equations we derived in [15]. We simply divide 5000 Giga tonnes carbon by 4.2 to estimate atmospheric carbon dioxide increase to be about 1200 ppmV. Add this to the existing 400 ppmV and we are well into Eocene conditions, 1600 ppmV. In this case, we will have changed the Earth’s climate within a few hundred years to an extent which took Mother Nature tens of million of years to accomplish. If we manage to put this much fossil carbon in the atmosphere this fast, we can assume with high probability that we will succeed in melting all of the polar permafrost [16-17] adding another 1500 Giga tonnes of carbon and we will likely initiate a methane hydrate burp (there is some evidence we already are doing this [18]) which will increase atmospheric carbon by several thousand billion tonnes [19]. Much of the release from these two sources will be in the form of methane rather than carbon dioxide which is about 33 times more powerful a green house gas. If Rogner is correct and we indeed burn it all up, we should assume with non-zero probability that we will cause our own self extinction.

Is all lost? Certainly not from an engineering perspective, in the next article, I will outline the technical solutions.

Hedin concludes: “The country must get serious about climate-change legislation and making real changes in our daily lives to reduce carbon emissions. The future of our nation’s food supply hangs in the balance.

Actually, considerably more than that hangs in the balance but Hedin’s advice is well worth heeding.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/opinion/28hedin.html

[2] (Rutledge) Rutledge, D., 2007, http://rutledge.caltech.edu/ presentation and excel worksheet can be downloaded here. Rutledge, D. Hubbert’s peak, the coal question and climate change, APSO-USA World Oil Conference, 17-20 October 2007, Houston, Texas.

[3] Carles Pelejero, Eva Calvo and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, “Paleo-perspectives on ocean acidification,” Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol.25 No.6, March 2010.

[4] Hansen, J., et al. 2008 Target CO2, where should humanity aim?, Atmospheric Sciences Journal, October 2008.

[5] Chris Turney and Richard Jones, Does the Agulhas current amplify global temperatures during super-interglacials?, Journal of Quarternary Science, vol 25(60 839-843.

[6] Kopp, Simons, Maloof, Oppenheimer, Global and local sea level during the last interglacial: a probabilistic assessment, arXiv:0903.0752v1 [physics.geo-ph] 4 Mar 2009.

[7] Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for adapting to climate change: Tracking Earth’s global energy. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 1, 19-27. DOI 10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001. see also Trenberth, K., Fasullo, J., and Kiehl, J., “Earth’s Energy Budget”, American Meteorological Society, March 2009.

[8] Peter D. Ward, The Flooded Earth, Basic Books, 2010.

[9] Daniel J. Lunt, Alan M. Haywood, Gavin A. Schmidt, Ulrich Salzmann, Paul J. Valdes, and Harry J. Dowsett, Earth system sensitivity inferred from Pliocene modelling and data, published online: 6 Decembder 2009 | DOI: 10.1038/NGEO706

[10] Harry J. Dowsett, John A. Barron, Richard Z. Poore, Robert S. Thompson, Thomas M. Cronin, Scott E. Ishman and Debra A. Willard, Middle Pliocene Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction: PRISM2, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OPEN FILE REPORT 99-535, 1999.

[11] Mark Pagani, Zhonghui Liu, Jonathan LaRiviere and Ana Christina Ravelo, High Earth-system climate sensitivity determined from Pliocene carbon dioxide concentrations, published online: 20 December 2009 | DOI: 10.1038/NGEO724

[12] Fedorov, A. V., Brierley, C. M., and Emanuel, K., Tropical cyclones and permanent El Nino in the early Pliocene epoch, Nature, Vol. 463, February 25, 2010, 1066-1070.

[13] Tripati, A., Roberts, C., Eagle, R., Coupling of CO2 and ice sheet stability over major climate transitions of the last 20 million years, Science, 326, 1394, 2009, DOI: 10.1126/science.1178296.

[14] Royer, “CO2-forced climate thresholds during the Phanerozoic”, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70 (2006) 5665–5675

[15] http://brleader.com/?p=1783

[16] Tarnocai, C., Canadell, P., Journal of Global Biogeochemical Cycles (GB2023,doi:10.1029/2008GB003327) American Geophysical Union.

[17] Edward A. G. Schuur, Jason G. Vogel, Kathryn G. Crummer, Hanna Lee, James O. Sickman, T. E. Osterkamp, “The effect of permafrost thaw on old carbon release and net carbon exchange from tundra,” Nature 459, 556-559 (28 May 2009) doi:10.1038/nature08031 Letter

[18] Shakhova, N., Semiletov, I., Salyuk, A., Yusupov, V., Kosmach, D., Gustafsson, O., “Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf”, Science 5 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5970, pp. 1246 – 1250, DOI: 10.1126/science.1182221

[19] D. Archer, “Methane hydrate stability and anthropogenic climate change”, Biogeosciences, 4, 521–544, 2007, www.biogeosciences.net/4/521/2007/




Purcellville Police Blotter – Week of November 27

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Blue Ridge Leader News – November 28, 2010

The Over-Friendly Skies

Oh, man- I really dread getting into this. This whole security check thing at our nation’s airports has us acting like the sky’s falling; maybe it is.

You’ve heard about the new- more intrusive- checks carried out by the Transportation Security Administration (and more importantly, its minions working at hubs like Dulles); the pat-downs have ramped up to an invasive search of your ‘private’ areas and the see-through imaging pretty much leaves nothing to the imagination, as far as the shape of your nude body is concerned.

We’ve heard all this, and a lot of us are really upset about it.

Did this really come about just because of the jerk who recently tried to smuggle explosives into the US from Amsterdam?

If so, how is this new stuff supposed to help in cases like that?

Sorry, but if our problem is how to protect our country from terrorists entering our airspace, how are these new security measures supposed to help?

Kinda like fixing the barn door to keep the pigeons from roosting in the cupola.

Doesn’t make a direct connection.

Anyway, I’m not as upset by these new TSA security measures (at airports like Dulles) as some of my friends and colleagues are, but I do have some food for thought about the bigger picture.

How would we feel if our nation- due to increased risk of violence in our schools- forced an invasive body search and X-Ray imaging of every child (and teachers, too- even administrators), every school day- just to be on the safe side?

How would you like to be groped on your way into church- just to make sure you don’t have a bomb on your person?

And another thing- if- as I’ve heard some of the ‘experts’ comment on CNN- some of the more desperate terrorists are starting to hide explosives in their bodily orifices, are we gonna put up with the insertion of fingers or other devices in these places, too- again, just to be safe?

How much indignity will you withstand in the name of safety?

And- will all these procedures really keep us safe?

So- some day in the not-too-distant future- you may be driving your personal (or business) vehicle- minding your own- and, instead of coming upon those intermittent Driver License checkpoints conducted by the authorities- you’ll be asked to step out of the car and submit to a full body examination- all areas, all orifices, etc, etc- you get the idea.

Kinda makes you want to make sure you take a shower before leaving the house, don’t it?

And don’t forget all sporting events- they’d make great opportunities for full body searches and X-Ray imaging.

And all music concerts.

If I wanted to see the Rolling Stones once more before I die (it’s now apparent that they never will), I may have to endure worse physical treatment than any of the violent sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll in their repertoire.

How about malls- any big shopping areas?

Better cover them, too.

And make sure you give Granny the works- she looks a bit suspicious to me.

And that little boy. He’s acting a bit odd.

(Could you blame him?)

Maybe there’ll come a day when we don’t even have to go to the security checkers: they’ll come to us!

Imagine a knock on your door- any time of the day or night- and some guys with fancy equipment enter and order you and your family to line up and get ready to undergo ‘The Search.’

“Bend over, Mr Robinson.”

Sounds kinda like 1930’s Germany, right?

“Well, didn’t we fight those guys?”

We sure did.

A lot of us feel like we won ’cause we were on the right side.

….. I know, I know, I’m going overboard here.

At least I hope I am.

We’re not there yet, George Orwell.

But, some may see these TSA security procedures as a step in the direction of a comprehensive loss of our personal freedoms.

How much are we willing to withstand in order to maintain safety in our skies?

I’d like to hear more from some of the wiser individuals of our country on this; so far, we’ve heard from a lot of clowns, hot-air balloons and puppets.

Where are our sages?

Building our Way Out

And- for those who just can’t get enough stories in the ‘questionable intelligence’ column, let’s take a look at the local school system’s early Christmas wish list; you’ll recall that they plan to ask Santa for $919 million- just to cover facility construction and maintenance over the next five-year planning period.

“So- what happens after that?”

Aye, Laddy, there’s the rub.

It’ll never really be over, I’m afraid.

After we get done building all those schools, we’ll just plan to build even more- as long as our population keeps exploding like some mutant lemming species gone riot.

We keep adding to our student body by about 3,000 pupils per year, and we have the audacity- or outright stupidity- to act surprised, even angry- that our school system actually requires buildings to house the acts of education.

Well, fancy that.

We’re making our bed with a gold coverlet, and planning to sleep overnight in a motel.

That makes good fiscal sense.

You know, if we need to build almost a dozen schools in that next half-decade of planning, it makes private and home-schooling a lot more attractive, doesn’t it?

And what about all those programs to get your GED right over the Internet?

If everybody’s got a home computer, how about using them to educate our kids instead of spending our way into oblivion, just because that’s the way it’s always been done?

The human mind is a highly creative organism, and it’s far beyond time for some truly out-of-the-box thinking on the way we teach our kids.

The 21st Century picture of congested roadways, violence-prone campuses, expensive facilities and programs (not to mention finding and purchasing the land to put them on), and increasingly busier working parents certainly leaves something to be desired; it seems we’re doing a good job of teaching our offspring to join and propagate the rat race.

Right now, I got my money on the rats.

Jack Kerouac’s First Novel (but not as good)

Leesburg will one day be a city. It’s just a matter of time.

It may not happen while many of us are enjoying life in the physical form, but it’s something I’ve been hearing about for close to 15 years now.

The Town Council decided to broach the subject in this year’s legislative agenda for the wise Senators and Delegates down in Richmond; the most that can happen is that the General Assembly lifts the current moratorium on municipalities like Leesburg transitioning to City Status.

Then, the Town would have to go through the mechanics of actually going that route.

You know how long it can take the folks down in Richmond to get something done- especially when every elected Senator and Delegate has a differing opinion from his or her colleagues?

It could take decades just to lift the restriction.

But, back to Leesburg.

Mayor Kristen Umstattd- as shrewd a soul as I’ve seen in elected office this side of the State Capitol- always told me that gaining City Status for Leesburg would be more a matter of numbers than anything else.

What she meant was- it’ll be based on population and projected tax revenue.

When the Town turns to City, it’ll need to provide more services (remember that talk we just had on education?); the residents will also stop paying County taxes at that time.

I think the figure we discussed on the subject was about 50,000.

That’s about how many people we’d need to tally up in order to take this City Status thing seriously.

Right now, I think we’re at about 40 grand- about 10,000 short.

And that is- if that financial formula still holds for the issue.

And when will we be at 50,000?

Well, judging from the population growth figures, my best guess is about the Year 2020.

And- judging from my experience watching the doings- and non-doings- down in Richmond- it’s probably a good idea to ask the elected leaders in the General Assembly to start the ball rolling on this.

They still have tobacco leaves on the ceiling, after all.

Reefer Badness

And, as a lesson in our different our Commonwealth is from some of her sister states across the nation, we note that- in a year in which California flirted with the idea of legalizing marijuana- one of our local Senators wants to criminalize even the synthetic variety across Virginia. Mark Herring plans to introduce legislation which would make it illegal to possess or sell that stuff called K2 or spice.

It’s generally sold as ‘incense,’ but it’s laced with chemicals which cause similar effects to naturally-grown cannabis.

Leesburg Police announced that local residents have started using this stuff; around the country, several states have outlawed the substance, and several more are in the process of doing so.

Senator Herring’s Bill would treat synthetic marijuana pretty much the same as the real stuff: a Class One Misdemeanor for less than a half-ounce, and up to 30 years in prison for possession of more than five pounds.

The question I asked myself about this was: “Would you want your kids taking this stuff indiscriminately?”

No!

Well, then- maybe it’s a good thing we’re not California.

Southern Comfort

Here’s a freebie for anyone who’s fresh out of ideas on a great holiday experience in Loudoun County for this year: go get a taste of Oatlands’ Christmas.

Tours are $10 for adults; where can you take a date for any less?

I love the place myself, and I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews from anyone who’s set foot on the property.

The Holiday Tours take you inside the mansion and around the grounds- letting you in on some of the history of the place- and that it has, in spades.

For those coming in during the fourth quarter, Oatlands is a former 19th century plantation, now a National Historic Site and Landmark.

It’s a little bit of Old South, right here in Loudoun County.

We still need to talk more about the facilities, acreage and history of Oatlands, but for now- check out their website: www.oatlands.org.

I only list websites for close personal friends and great causes. This is both.

Confessional

If you’ve seen me delivering mail in Purcellville over the past week, I admit to surrendering to the cold weather: (I held out as long as possible, believe me!) I broke out the wind-breaker, hat, gloves and buttoned-up shirt front. I even rolled up my window in between box deliveries.

I tell ya, though- it makes you appreciate a hot shower and a home-cooked meal when you get home, though.

Not to mention a chair that’s not moving you around at the pressure of several G-forces.

My Supervisor told me she decided not to have any snow this year; I hope she’s right.

I’m still recovering from shoulder surgery required by last February’s digging.

Let that one be a ‘hundred-year storm.’

You know, the day before Thanksgiving, it was so warm it almost looked comical to see people putting up Christmas decorations; by the day after Thanksgiving, the chill in the air made it all kinda make sense.

As I jokingly say to my colleagues: “Enjoy it while it lasts.”

Tim Jon for the Blue Ridge Leader




Two Separate Fires Attributed to Woodstoves

Although we have had a relatively mild fall, it won’t be long before the winter cold will be knocking at our doors. As temperatures grow colder, furnaces, space heaters, woodstoves and fireplaces will be fire up to keep us warm and cozy.

Therefore, Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office urges everyone to use safety precautions when using these alternative heating sources, such as woodstoves, fireplaces, or portable heaters. According to the US Fire Administration, wood stoves cause over 4,000 residential fires every year. Between Friday, November 12 and Saturday, November 13, fire and rescue personnel in Loudoun County responded to two fires that were directly related to woodstoves.

On Friday, November 12, an accidental fire which displaced several residents and their pet cats was due to a failure of a woodstove system.

Around 3:40 a.m., Friday, November 12, Loudoun County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management received a 9-1-1 call for a structure fire at 24213 Corktree Lane in Aldie. Fire and rescue personnel from Aldie, South Riding, Arcola, Middleburg, Leesburg and Prince William County responded to the scene. Arriving fire and rescue companies discovered an extensive fire that eventually destroyed the home.

The American Red Cross coordinated long-term relocation assistance for the residents who were displaced as a result of the fire. No injuries were reported.

The second fire occurred on Saturday, November 13. Around 9:40 p.m., on that date Loudoun County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management received a 9-1-1 call for a house fire at 19270 James Monroe Highway. Fire and rescue personnel from Leesburg, Aldie, Hamilton, Lansdowne, Purcellville and Loudoun Rescue responded to the scene. Arriving fire and rescue companies discovered a fire in an upper bedroom of the home. Crews were able to extinguish the fire quickly, bringing it under control in minutes, containing the majority of the fire damage to the bedroom. Other areas of the home received water and smoke damage.

Two adults, one dog and one cat were displaced as a result of the fire. The American Red Cross was on hand to provide assistance for the displaced family. There were no injuries reported as a result of this incident.

The Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office stated that the second fire, which resulted in estimated $75,000 damage, was accidental due to the failure of a woodstove system, too.

“Through proper maintenance and upkeep of alternative heating sources, fires such as these, could be prevented,” reported Fire-Rescue Chief W. Keith Brower.

According to the United States Fire Administration, heating is one of the leading causes of residential fires in the United States. The USFA reports that over one-quarter of these fires result from improper maintenance of equipment, specifically failure to clean the equipment.

The Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office and the US Fire Administration recommend taking a few simple safety precautions to prevent many of the fires caused by heating equipment.

Wood Stoves:

Carefully follow the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions. Look for solid construction, such as plate steel or cast iron metal. Check for cracks and inspect legs, hinges and door seals for smooth joints and seams. Use only seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, artificial logs, or trash. Inspect and clean your pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions. Be sure to keep combustible objects at least three feet away from your wood stove.

Electric Space Heaters:

Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Heaters are not dryers or tables; don’t dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater. Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater. Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.

Kerosene Heaters:

Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and check with your local fire department on the legality of kerosene heater use in your community. Never fill your heater with gasoline or camp stove fuel; both flare-up easily. Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene. Never overfill any portable heater. Use the kerosene heater in a well ventilated room.

Fireplaces:

Fireplaces regularly build up creosote in their chimneys. They need to be cleaned out frequently and chimneys should be inspected for obstructions and cracks to prevent deadly chimney and roof fires. Check to make sure the damper is open before starting any fire. Never burn trash, paper or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause heavy creosote buildup and are difficult to control. Use a screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks. Don’t wear loose-fitting clothes near any open flame. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed. Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.

Above all else, the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office reminds residents of the importance of having a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, including one in every bedroom and one outside each sleeping area.

“In a fire, seconds count. Properly installed working smoke alarms can help provide the extra seconds needed to escape safely in the event of a fire,” reported Chief Assistant Fire Marshal Jan Mitchell. “We were very fortunate in both of these incidents, since neither of these homes had working smoke alarms. The outcome could have been devastating.”

Safety is of the utmost concern. Take a few minutes to insure that you and your family are protected. Install smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and stock your home with a dry-chemical fire extinguisher. Practice a fire escape plan, and keep emergency numbers by the phone.

Should you like further information regarding fireplace, or other alternative heating source safety, call the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office or Joy Dotson, Public Education Manager at (703) 777-0333. If you need a smoke alarm, they are available for free by calling 703-737-8093.




Sheriff Offers Tips To Protect from Credit Card Fraud

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office continues to receive reports of credit card fraud in Loudoun County. At this time there are over 50 suspected cases of credit card fraud that are believed to be connected. In many cases the victim’s credit cards are being used at various locations throughout the United States and even overseas. It remains unclear at this time how and where the victims’ credit card numbers were accessed.

If you believe you have been a victim of credit card fraud, you are asked to contact the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office at 703-777-1021 to file a report with a Loudoun County Sheriff’s Deputy.

In light of these reports the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Financial Crimes Unit is offering some tips to help protect residents from becoming a victim of credit and charge card fraud.

Residents are encouraged to:

  • Sign your cards as soon as they arrive.
  • Carry your cards separately from your wallet, in a zippered compartment, a business card holder, or another small pouch.
  • Keep a record of your account numbers, their expiration dates, and the phone number and address of each company in a secure place.
  • Keep an eye on your card during the transaction, and get it back as quickly as possible.
  • Void incorrect receipts.
  • Destroy carbons.
  • Save receipts to compare with billing statements.
  • Open bills promptly and reconcile accounts monthly, just as you would your checking account.
  • Report any questionable charges promptly and in writing to the card issuer.
  • Notify card companies in advance of a change in address.

The agency also reminds residents to never give out your account number over the phone unless you are making the call to a company you know is reputable. If you have questions about a company, check it out with your local consumer protection office or Better Business Bureau.

If you lose your credit or charge cards or if you realize they’ve been lost or stolen, immediately call the issuer(s). Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24-hour service to deal with such emergencies. By law, once you report the loss or theft, you have no further responsibility for unauthorized charges. In any event, your maximum liability under federal law is $50 per card.




Governor’s Commission Considering Elimination of FOIA Council

The Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring is considering the consolidation or elimination of a number of state government boards and commissions. Among those marked for elimination is the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council.

In its report, available at www.reform.virginia.gov, the commission noted that citizens can recoup attorneys’ fees in FOIA litigation and the Office of the Attorney General can issue official opinions if needed.

The FOIA Council was established in part to offer an alternative to litigation by resolving disputes, as stated on its Web site: “By issuing advisory opinions, whether oral or written, the FOIA Council hopes to resolve disputes by clarifying what the law requires and to guide future practices.”

Also, only certain designated government officials (as listed in Virginia Code § 2.2-505) can request opinions from the Attorney General. The FOIA Council Web site states that the council “answers questions from private citizens, state and local public officials, and the media about access to public records and meetings.”

No final recommendation has been adopted and the Commission encourages public comment on the proposed consolidations and eliminations. Please submit your comments at www.reform.virginia.gov by clicking on the “Comment on the Commission’s Potential Recommendations” link.




Forecasting our Future Climate– Part 1

The rise of atmospheric CO2 above 450 parts per million can be prevented only by an unprecedented (in both severity and duration) depression of the global economy, or by voluntarily adopted and strictly observed limits on absolute energy use. The first is highly probable; the second would be a sapient action, but apparently not for this species.” – Vaclav Smil, Correspondence, Nature, Vol 453, 8 May 2008.

We can see from the past what we face in a future we have created. The geological record holds a rich history for scrutiny.” Peter D. Ward, The Flooded Earth, 2010.

It turns out that it is possible to forecast our climate future with some degree of accuracy because we know what happened on Earth in the past. Past climates are at least a first order approximation to future climates. We do not know how much fossil fuel we have left and we do not know what the human response to entropy problems will be but if we know how much we will use we can calculate the resultant increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and compare that to past climates.

To my knowledge all credible estimates for remaining recoverable fossil fuels are bounded by two divergent estimates. David Rutledge an engineering professor at CalTech has calculated that we have about 560 billion tonnes of carbon in coal, oil and natural gas (Rutledge). A tonne of carbon is equivalent to about seven or eight barrels of oil for reference. Rutledge exhaustively researched historic production and applied a technique called Hubbard linearization, named for M. King Hubbard. In 1956 Hubbard famously and accurately forecast that the peak of United States oil production would occur in 1970 using this technique. Rogner estimates remaining recoverable reserves to be 5000 billion tonnes of carbon in all fossil fuels (Rogner). Both estimates are credible. All other credible estimates are between these bounds. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used values ranging from 1000 to 2000 billion tonnes.

Figure 1

Figure 1

If we assume that the fossil fuels we burn are limited by the Rutledge estimate, we can determine the best case scenario for our climate future. In this case world peak fossil fuels production will occur around 2024, in just 14 years as shown in figure 1. Robert Hirsch, Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling analyzing peak oil estimated that we would need about 20 years to effect a transition to alternative sources of energy in order to avoid an economic recession (Hirsch). But their study is limited to oil production and they assumed that we would still have plenty of natural gas and coal. Vaclav Smil estimates we need at least one or two generations to effect a transition from fossil fuels (Smil). If these studies are correct and if Rutledge is right then we cannot avoid some level of economic collapse even if we go on a war footing. We need an energy and climate bill now. The recent election results preclude effective action for at least two years.

If we continue business as usual, i.e., no effective action, by 2024 the world population will be over 8 billion. All of these people will need to stay warm and cook their food. Since we are already deforesting our planet at a rate of 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon per year, it is rational to assume we will cut down every tree. There is a total of 288 billion tonnes of total carbon in our forests worldwide above ground (Moutinho). Therefore the minimum total emissions of carbon dioxide would be 848 billion tonnes. This is shown in figure 1. The climate is insensitive to the profile of our emissions. It is only the total that really counts.

I used Tom Wigley’s program (Wigley) to compute the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a result, shown in figure 2. Note that even though emissions peak in 2024 in this scenario, atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to climb reaching 525 parts per million by volume about 40 years later. Significantly, according to Pelejero the threshold for coral survival is 450 parts per million by volume of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (Pelejero). We will remain above that threshold for almost 300 years. Our oceans are becoming more acidic at a rate ten times faster than the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum which was a major marine extinction event (Pelejero). Combined with other ocean insults such as over fishing and pollution, even the lowest estimate of remaining fossil fuels, assuming we burn it all, results in a significant extinction event (Jackson).

Jeremy Jackson writes:

We can summarize the extent of human impacts on the oceans in stark terms. Humans have caused and continue to hasten the ecological extinction of desirable species and ocean ecosystems. In their place, we are witnessing population explosions of formerly uncommon species and novel ecosystems with concomitant losses in biodiversity and productivity for human use. Many of the newly abundant species, such as jellyfish in the place of fish and toxic dinoflagellates in the place of formerly dominant phytoplankton, are undesirable equivalents to rats, cockroaches and pathogens on the land. Moreover, there are good theoretical reasons and considerable empirical evidence to suggest that, once established, such newly established communities become stabilized owing to positive feedbacks among newly dominant organisms and their highly altered environments—which raises questions about whether unfavourable changes can be undone if we put our minds to it.

Figure 2

Figure 2

We will also denude our planet of trees as well as corals so the minimum credible estimate for remaining recoverable fossil fuels results in a major extinction event, which is already underway, and an economic catastrophe. Note that the real impact of even this minimal global warming is locked in after 2024. There will be no Mulligan.

In summary, we see that if Rutledge is right and we continue to elect the clueless, then we will suffer a very severe and prolonged depression and cause a serious extinction event. All other estimates result in more severe results.

In part 2, we will compare the results shown in figure 2 with the paleoclimate record to determine the resultant increase in surface temperature and sea level rise.

In part 3, I will lay out what we have to do to avoid catastrophe.

Tony Noerpel

(Rutledge) Rutledge, D., 2007, http://rutledge.caltech.edu/ presentation and excel worksheet can be downloaded here. Rutledge, D. Hubbert’s peak, the coal question and climate change, APSO-USA World Oil Conference, 17-20 October 2007, Houston, Texas.

(Rogner) Rogner, H. H., An assessment of world hydrocarbon resources, Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 22:217-262, 1997.

(Hirsch) Robert Hirsch, Roger Bezdek, Robert Wendling, Peaking Of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, DOE Report, February 2005

(Smil) Vaclav Smil, Energy Transitions, 2010

(Wigley) Tom Wigley, http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/wigley/magicc/

(Moutinho) Moutinho, P. and Schwatzman, S. (eds) Tropical deforestation and climate change, Belem, Brazil: Amazon Inst. For Environmental Research.

(Pelejero) Carles Pelejero, Eva Calvo and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, “Paleo-perspectives on ocean acidification,” Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol.25 No.6, March 2010.

(Jackson) Jeremy B. C. Jackson, “The future of the oceans past,” Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (2010) 365, 3765–3778, doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0278




Holiday Pet Pantry Is Coming

For the sixth year, Loudoun County Animal Care and Control is hosting a Pet Pantry in conjunction with the Community Holiday Coalition to provide donated pet food and supplies to families in need during the holiday season. The Pet Pantry will be housed in Animal Care and Control’s Mobile Adoption Vehicle, parked at the Holiday Coalition’s Store in Sterling December 10-17.

The economic downturn has created an even greater need to provide assistance to those experiencing financial hardships during this holiday season, and many of these families include pets. The Pet Pantry allows families who are picking up food, clothes, and toys at the Holiday Coalition Store to also receive food and treats for their pets. The number of families needed assistance is expected to reach an all-time high this year.

The Pet Pantry is part of Loudoun County Animal Care and Control’s award-winning CARE program, which works year- round to assist low income citizens with pet care needs such as medical assistance, low cost spay/neuter surgery, and pet food. Information will be made available about the CARE program for those that need additional assistance throughout the year.

The Pet Pantry is stocked solely through donations from citizens and businesses. Donations of unopened pet food, treats, and new or gently used toys will be accepted at the Loudoun County Animal Shelter, as well as at all Holiday Coalition collection sites, through December 15. Food for cats and small animals is especially needed.

For more information on the Community Holiday Coalition and the Pet Pantry, visit www.loudoun.gov/holidaycoalition. For more information on Animal Care and Control and the CARE program, visit www.loudoun.gov/animals.




Loudoun County Searches To Find the “Greenest” Company

NCC Wins Platinum and First Place in the Mid-Sized Business Category at the 2010 Loudoun County Green Business Challenge

The National Conference Center (NCC) received first place in the mid-sized business awards category and the Platinum Award from the Loudoun County Green Business Challenge for NCC’s dedication in maintaining an eco-friendly property. The Platinum Award was the highest level awarded. With 917 guest rooms and more than 250 meeting rooms, NCC welcomes as many as 6,000 guests a month. As one of the largest conference centers in the nation, the team at NCC began their green efforts in the early 90’s to responsibly conserve water and energy at the facility.

The Loudoun County Green Business Challenge honors companies that make a commitment to ensuring a healthy and sustainable life. Each year, participating businesses in the county pledge to take action and better the community and environment with sustainable practices.

In the past twenty years, NCC has come together to involve the entire property and surrounding community in practicing sustainability. Today, NCC’s established green team is the driving force behind the property’s new major green initiatives. According to Pat Trammell, director of housekeeping and “chief sustainability officer (CSO)” at NCC, “Having a green team makes the property’s goals more defined by bringing future ideas to the table. Most importantly, it connects people who are passionate about being green.”

These sustainability practices expand over 110-acres and include water saving devices in the showers, toilets and sinks; motion-sensor heating and air conditioning devices in guest rooms and meeting space; and biodiesel vehicles that operate off of diverted fryer oil.

Other conservation efforts include an active bed linen and towel reuse program, all high-efficient Energy Star appliances, energy-efficient CFL bulbs throughout the property, and the use of recycled office materials. The conference center also considers the “greenness” of its supply chain. NCC’s housekeeping department has eliminated multiple cleaning products and chooses supplies based on the company’s proximity and the manufacturing process.

As a conference center, food flexibility plays a large role in attendance. Currently, the conference center participates in a Farm-to-Table initiative through a partnership with Local Food Hub, a non-profit organization that collaborates with local farmers to provide practical vendors. By using Local Food Hub and other Virginia farms, this promotes stewardship of the land and requires less transportation.

At the forefront of transportation sustainability, The National Conference Center diverts 100% of their fryer oil to create biodiesel fuel for their shuttles. By converting the fryer oil, the newer shuttles are able to operate off the BIO 20 diesel fuel during the warmer months, an estimated diversion of 1300 gallons per year.

The National Conference Center has also extended their efforts outward to the community. For the past four years, NCC has hosted an annual Earth Day event. In April 2010, NCC employees, students from neighboring Belmont Ridge Middle School, and volunteers from Blue Ridge Wildlife Center came together to help clean up the property’s 110 wooded acres, the creek that leads into the Potomac, and shared ways of being green.

Since 2006, NCC’s primary strategic initiatives have been to fully participate in environmental stewardship and serve as a leader in sustainability. In 2009 alone, the conference center was able to save over two million gallons of water and over two million kilo watt hours, reducing their energy consumption by 10 percent.

“We saved green by going green,” explained Kurt Krause general manager at NCC, “Businesses can’t ask for a better outcome than that!”

Located in Northern Virginia 12 miles from Dulles International Airport and 35 miles from Washington, D.C., the National Conference Center (NCC) is one of the largest and most comprehensive conference centers in the nation. With 917 guest rooms and over 250,000 square feet of meeting space, NCC has become a hub for productive meetings. NCC is also on the GSA schedule. For information call 800-640-2684 or visit www.conferencecenter.com.




Blue Ridge Leader News – November 21, 2010

All Ganged Up

To gang, or not to gang, that is the question, at least as far as this story is concerned. The Sheriff says a recent mob assault in Sterling stemmed from a personal dispute between some of the individuals involved in the incident; to read some of the internet commentary you’d think these suspects all had MS-13 tattoos, carried machetes and had no legal right to enter the US in the first place.

The crime- which occurred on the 12th of this month in Community Plaza near the eastern county line- left two injured victims: one young man suffering from non-life-threatening stab wounds and another with lesser afflictions.

The five arrested suspects include three Sterling, men and one Herndon resident and another man from Reston.

Now, just because the majority of these individuals possess names which could be described as ‘Hispanic,’ that doesn’t mean they’re in a gang, and it certainly doesn’t mean they’re in the country illegally.

I’m not condoning their behavior; any five men who attack another two with a knife at 11:30 at night in an eastern Loudoun strip mall should face severe consequences.

But we need to keep this in perspective.

Calling this incident a gang-related affair is like calling Cat Stevens a terrorist.

Now, if I hear ‘Moonshadow’ one more time, I’ll lock the guy up myself, but that still falls a bit short of terrorist activity.

To get back to today’s story, police in Northern Virginia take a strict stance on gang investigation, prosecution and punishment.

But gang activity is pretty strictly defined as a group who meets for the purpose of conducting crimes- some of which are nothing short of horrific.

A group of men who happen to run across somebody they have a grudge against, and get in a fight- late at night in a Sterling hang-out place- even if they injure someone with a weapon- ain’t necessarily a ‘gang’ by the definitions of the police, the State Attorney General or Congressman Frank Wolf.

These guys broke some important laws, according to the report (felony assault by mob and misdemeanor simple assault by mob), and I’d strongly prefer if they’d take their activities elsewhere (in fact, we can be pretty sure of that, at least for awhile), but let’s not say the sky’s falling if it starts to rain a little.

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of illegal- even violent- gang activity to investigate in the DC Metro Region.

And, you know, judging someone’s citizenry status by the sound of their name is something we need to get away from, not only in Loudoun County, but in the United States.

We’ve shed a lot of blood over the years in order to punish the guilty, and to protect the innocent.

It’s Sunday, and hopefully, that’s my last sermon.

But don’t bet on it.

Martial Instruction

Now, to stick with the theme of fighting for a bit, we can turn our attention to the upcoming battle royal we’re certainly gonna see for the next year’s bill of education; the public school system’s contemplating a $900 million dollar (and then some) budget, and the County Board grudgingly forked over some federal funds to restore teacher pay for a couple of upcoming furlough days. It’s all sort of laying the groundwork for what could be a very divided, emotionally draining series of parlays between the general government and those who vie for the side of “readin,’ rightin,’ and ‘rithmatic.”

The vote on that furlough funding goes back to last year’s budget cycle, in which the best laid plans of mice and men attempted to design a means of saving some money: namely giving all the paid staff two extra (unpaid) days off during Thanksgiving week.

Then, presto chango, a federal grant came Loudoun’s way and it wasn’t needed, but all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t rearrange all the Thanksgiving week schedules for local instructors, so the designers of this plan couldn’t just put those days back on the school calendar.

Now they’re gonna get paid, and on top of that, a teachers’ organization is planning to institute a ‘mandatory work only’ order starting this winter- to demonstrate the amount of above-the-call-of-duty effort extended by those in the classrooms.

I do empathize with them there- the requests are endless- volunteering at events, helping students before and after school, working on projects at home at all hours, and so on.

But, in the grand scheme of things, I still see this as a maneuver which resembles a shot fired over the gunwales.

Not sure it’s gonna appease the Captain of the ship over at the County Government Center.

But, then again, maybe the school system has their own Farragut.

And- just think: we wage this one every year.

The Sun Also Rises… in the East

Shopping and office space, in a year or just a bit more- that’s what comin’ to a spot on the more ‘civilized’ end of Purcellville; the Gateway Center project got off the ground in an official ceremony, despite an ongoing legal appeal by its neighbors across the street. The former Cole Farm site stands to gain a Harris Teeter grocery store, a handful of private homes, and some considerable retail and office footage.

If you haven’t noticed, this Town’s bursting at the seams: a new high school opened on the north side of the community this fall and the Council approved a shopping center for Catoctin Corner- just to the east of the Gateway site.

The developers for Gateway- to their credit- plan to incorporate the existing buildings from the Cole Farm into their project, so we don’t need to mourn the loss of the familiar silhouette.

I don’t think, anyway.

That pending legal challenge came from some town residents- including the Browns- of Crooked Run Orchard- another familiar fixture on the eastern entrance to Purcellville; there’s much more history between them and the town government than we’re going to get into here, but their case versus the project is still active, at any rate.

I do know that some folks oppose much of the commercial development for the Town; I will say that it’s sometimes hard to see the quaint and familiar change into the slick and profitable.

And sometimes the best efforts at preservation and conservation so fail.

I also understand- the more I age- the words of one of the more celebrated writers of the past hundred years: “He who is not busy being born is busy dying.”

Bob Dylan said that, but then, he said a lotta things.

At Least until Budget Day

And, not to be outdone by the commercial activity in her sister town across the Catoctin hills, officials in Leesburg decided to extend a welcome mat for shoppers which runs well into the New Year. The Town Council voted to allow free parking in the Town Hall garage until nearly the end of February, and maybe more.

With budget constraints looming on their own horizon, they opted to end the free gesture on the day that they get next year’s financial recommendations from Town Manager John Wells.

This free parking issue creates about a $15,000 hole in the budget, from what I’ve heard, and town staff isn’t really sure just how much extra shopping money the incentive brings to the downtown area.

The Town’s been ending their holiday parking program just after New Year’s (it starts the night before Thanksgiving).

I say: Enjoy it while it lasts, you never know how tight the fist will get once the budget numbers come in.

Dressing the Turkey

It’s time to say ‘Thanks.’ Let’s see: what do we have to be thankful for?

Oh, come on, if I can feel thankful with my fairly monastic means of living, I’m sure most anyone in Loudoun County with a roof over their head can be pretty grateful if they put their mind (and heart) to it.

Friends, family, a home (even if it’s mostly owned by the mortgage company), employment, a place in one’s community, plenty of opportunity for healthy activity, a stimulating environment, the list goes on.

And, since you feel so good about it all, don’t forget to remember (yes, I realize what I just said) some of the other side of life.

Not all of us have house, a job, a wife, a best friend to rely on, or that undeniable sense of hope that gets us out of bed every morning.

Just a reminder that the needs served by some of our local organizations: Interfaith Relief, LINK, the Holiday Coalition, Messiah’s Gate, Tree of Life, and Seven Loaves are real, local and ongoing.

It could be your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend, or (next year) you.

So, spread the dishes to all corners of your table, and have a great Thanksgiving.

Hope you wild gobblers out on Snickersville Turnpike and Paxson Road have a good Thanksgiving, too.

Tim Jon for the Blue Ridge Leader




Sheriff’s Office Alerts Residents to Hijacked E-mail Scam

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office reminds computer users to secure their passwords and update anti-virus and anti-spyware programs after the agency received several complaints from residents whose e-mail accounts were hijacked as part of a scam.

Several Loudouners reported that their e-mail accounts were used by an outside party to send e-mails requesting money to their own contacts and address books.

In most cases the fraudulent e-mail states that the victim was on vacation in London (or other overseas location), and was either robbed or had their hotel room burglarized, and requested that a sum of money (varying from $1000.00 to $2500.00) be wired to a recipient in London (or other overseas location) so that the victim can get home to the US. Most of the e-mails are listed as subject: “I Need Your Help Urgently..” or “Stranded in The UK..”.

Residents should be aware of this scam as it is unclear as to how the victim’s e-mail accounts are being compromised. Those who access the internet should ensure that they have a current anti-virus program(s) which includes anti-malware/anti-spyware protection, and that they regularly update their virus protection.

If you believe you have been a victim of this scam you are asked to contact the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Financial Crimes Unit at 703-777-0475 or call your local law enforcement agency.




Slam Poet Visits Rust

Poet Beny Blaq will perform at the Rust Library, 380 Old Waterford Road, Leesburg on Wednesday, December 1, at 6:00 p.m. His performance will be followed by open-mic night for Teens.

Slam Poetry Artist, Beny Blaq is the Poet-In-Residence at Busboys and Poets Restaurant in Shirlington. A Brooklyn, NY native, he discovered he had an interest in poetry at the age of 13. Inspired by the art form of poetry and spoken word, which he calls the “greatest forum of expression,” he decided to give his writing life. He has performed and featured nationally at open mic venues and community events and at more than 50 colleges and universities. Beny has conducted writing workshops in public schools, headlined in the play, “Prison Poetry,” at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC, and appeared on radio and TV outlets such as BET’s Lyric Café, TV One and WHUR Radio, as well as HBO’s hit series “The Wire.”




Chorus Sings as Coins Go “Ching” for Salvation Army

The sounds of coins dropping into the Salvation Army’s red kettle will be joined with the sounds of male a cappella holiday music at Dulles Town Center at three special appearances over the holiday season.

The Chorus of the Old Dominion, a Loudoun County favorite, will perform traditional and pop holiday music for shoppers on the dates of:

  • Friday, Nov. 26
  • Saturday, Dec. 4
  • Saturday, Dec. 18

The chorus will perform from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. each of those days outside the mall’s north entrance near The Cheesecake Factory restaurant. Dulles Town Center is located on the southeast corner of Routes 7 and 28.

The Salvation Army relies on money raised in the red kettles — in coins, dollars and credit card gifts (and the occasional diamond ring or gold tooth) — to serve in more than 5,000 communities nationwide. The Chorus of the Old Dominion, a barbershop-style vocal music group, will be among the more than 25,000 volunteers spread throughout the country from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve to ring bells and solicit spare change donations from holiday shoppers.

All money raised in the red kettles stays in the community in which it was collected. The Red Kettle Campaign helps Salvation Army serve more than four million people in need during the Christmas season and nearly 30 million individuals year-round.