Archive for Monday, February 8, 2010

Collaboration on climate research in state unique

Kent Nunemaker cuts some corn for silage in this file photo. Researchers from KU and other schools around the state are collaborating on problems related to climate change and energy use in Kansas, including predicting how things might change for farmers.

Kent Nunemaker cuts some corn for silage in this file photo. Researchers from KU and other schools around the state are collaborating on problems related to climate change and energy use in Kansas, including predicting how things might change for farmers.

February 8, 2010


About the project

• The $20 million grant is being awarded to the Kansas NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) at KU. The federal program targets states that have been traditionally underfunded in science and engineering.

• Five companies are assisting with the effort: Abengoa Bioenergy, MGP Ingredients, Nanoscale, Archer Daniels Midland and Netcrystals.

• The $20 million grant is supported by $4 million in matching funds from KU, Kansas State University and Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation.

• The 40 scientists currently involved with the project represent a range of disciplines including agronomy, anthropology, computer science, economics, geography, mathematics, sociology, engineering, biology, chemistry and physics.

Kansas University researchers are working with other schools across the state on four problems related to climate change and energy use in Kansas.

The $20 million project funded through the National Science Foundation is one of the few funded projects looking at both climate and energy.

Kristin Bowman-James, a distinguished professor of chemistry at KU, is coordinating the $20 million project.

The collection of engineers, scientists and social scientists will collaborate across universities and disciplines to accomplish four major goals. Researchers from KU, Kansas State University, Wichita State University and Haskell Indian Nations University are involved.

New climate models

Chuck Rice, distinguished professor of agronomy at K-State, will be leading one team of researchers to create a climate model that will predict what the climate will be like in the state 20, 50 and 100 years from now.

He said the data will likely vary across the state, with an increase in the variety and intensity of precipitation and storms.

“Kansas farmers will need to adapt to that change in climate,” Rice said, mostly to any changes in rainfall amounts.

His group will also look to see how Kansas farmers might be able to change their climate for the better — through potential policy changes like subsidies to reduce nitrous oxide and other emissions.

Making decisions

One of the more interesting parts of the project, Bowman-James said, is being led by Dietrich Earnhart, a recently promoted professor of economics at KU.

It will bring a social science approach to an area traditionally dominated by other science fields, she said.

Through a series of surveys of Kansas farmers, Earnhart and others will seek to learn how farmers make decisions about which crops to grow, and whether climate change will impact those decisions. The climate in Kansas is variable, and will likely continue to get drier in the west and wetter in the east.

“The differences that already exist in Kansas are only going to get wider,” he said.

His project will attempt to predict how climate would change in 10 years and present that information to farmers and see how they would react to those changes.

The information learned could increase or decrease the need to respond to climate change in other ways, Earnhart said. Also, he said, farmers may learn that it’s easier to adapt than it first appeared.

Building better solar power

Judy Wu, distinguished professor of physics at KU, is leading a project that will examine the use of nanotechnology in solar power.

Nanotechnology examines the possibility of manufacturing on the molecular or atomic levels, and its expansion to solar power could create something that resembles an artificial replication of plants’ photosynthesis process that converts sunlight to energy.

Wu said her team will examine how to make solar power more efficient and cost-effective.

“That’s a true bottleneck at this point,” Wu said, saying that if that hurdle could be cleared, then solar power may become a more viable alternative for many who wouldn’t use it otherwise.

Training American Indians

Joane Nagel, distinguished professor of sociology at KU, is working with Dan Wildcat, a professor at Haskell who studies climate change, to develop a path for American Indians to earn doctoral degrees and examine the impact of climate change and energy issues on native lands.

Nagel said the two are working on a 10-week summer internship program for Haskell students that encourages them to develop projects involving climate change issues for native lands.

She said the project should help native cultures, many of which have agriculturally based economies and are in coastal areas, deal with the impacts of climate change.

“They’re probably the least situated communities in the United States to cope with climate change,” she said.

Bowman-James said the four projects together represented a collaborative effort the likes of which is rare in academia.

“They really do interlock because each one is interdependent with the other,” Bowman-James said.


Patrick Freeland 4 years, 2 months ago

Some more @ Devo

You mention the Polar Bears, and sure their numbers are going up. But what about the Caribou? In Alaska, there are caribou which follow an age-long migratory route to calve, but this isn't happening as it should because rivers which usually freeze in the winter aren't freezing. A bunch of dying Caribou make an easy target for polar bears. Rainforests really aren't doing so well, mostly because they're being cut down en masse to make room for "modern" agriculture, however at the cost of biodiversity. Now these same countries are losing their natural water filtration, while snow-pack decreases. The oceans are becoming increasingly more acidic, and the Jellyfish are loving it. So much that they are increasing in numbers exponentially all over the planet. And once you get past Gyres of plastic that are twice the size of Texas in the Pacific, it sure makes fishing difficult when nets weighed down by masses of jellyfish sink ships, and tourism's not so hot when Box Jellies wash up on shore in Hawaii. I agree that it's damn near impossible to predict the future, but with the advent of satellite-mapping, GIS, and the internet it sure makes predicting the present a whole lot easier. Countless people around the planet are forced to change their lives, especially indigenous peoples who live simply and don't contribute to the abuse of this world.

This planet has a natural rhythm which promotes the homeostasis and natural development of every complex system. However, as humans have sought to "progress" our world, fueled by greed and exploitation, we have in the process destabilized this natural rhythm. We "really have to adapt" now, not because it is in the best interests of us here in Lawrence, KS, but it's in the best interest of us as a species.


Patrick Freeland 4 years, 2 months ago

@ Sizzle Did you even read the articles that you linked to? Here's an excerpt from the first, "The conventional theory is that climate changes on Mars can be explained primarily by small alterations in the planet's orbit and tilt, not by changes in the sun." The other articles have similar quotes once you get past the title.

@ Devo Just try drinking from a Kansas river now. In the past, there were medicines which could fight bacterium or other problems from water, which grew in places like wetlands. Now, medicines come in expensive mass-produced pills to treat problems caused by chemical exposure. Rivers are now full of nitrates, birth-control, mercury, prozac, and God knows what else, however some of the familiar inhabitants, like fish, are dying off in massive amounts due to severe contamination. Your market fundamentalism is easily justified within the comfort of a house, but think of what it takes for your house to exist, think of the countless systems and infrastructures that make your world possible. If you lost any small part of that system, your world crumbles down and what do you do when you can no longer drink water from a tap? Do you drink from the river?

@ Monkeyhawk Think of who would profit from the notion that man-made effects on climate change are false. If energy companies which make billions, if not trillions, each year by fueling a public perception of neccesity could spare even a few thousand a year to create even the slightest hint of doubt that allows them to stay in operation, would that not be a wise business decision?

@ ShePrecedes I'm glad that someone else is watching the Sun and its spots. If just one of those M-class coronal mass ejections caressed our planet, we would have much bigger problems than a fossil fuel powered climate destabilization on our hands. We could lose electricity on a national, or even global scale. That sort of EMP would disable every single AC powered device in existence. Infrastructure would implode within a matter of weeks.


devobrun 4 years, 2 months ago

Fugu, you have much more trust in computer models than do I.

There are many aspects of this debate that are troubling to the reasoned mind. 1) What is climate? I mean, what are the boundaries of space and time that discriminate climate from weather? Some would argue that the definition of climate is a bigger spacial region than Kansas. Thus, we are to believe that an average weather pattern can be un-averaged to provide a Kansas impact. This derivative of an integral is fraught with mathematical problems.

2) An old proverb says: People who predict don't know. People who know don't predict. As a matter of general practice, predictions out 30, 50, 100 years will be less and less believable. This goes for the weather, the climate, the economy, and the politics.

3) Respecting the content of a study is quite different from respecting the purpose. The content of a study is respected, or not, on the basis of data, testing, and logic. The purpose is quite a separate thing. You want to plan ahead. Good planning is important to future success, but not if the plan is bogus. The climate is just too big a subject to extrapolate into the time frame needed. We don't know. Deal with the uncertainty by being nimble. Be prepared for changes in climate and wild swings in weather. That's all you can do. Weather and climate predictors do no better than the Farmer's Almanac.

4) I fail to see how $20 million is needed to plan for different temperature and moisture patterns in the future. Look around the states that surround Kansas, there's your answer. Crops will shift south to north and west to east. We are only guessing as to how much. We'll deal with it as it happens.

There, that was my 2 cents. 1/2,000,000,000 of the cost of the study. Advice will cost you nothing. Relax, we'll be fine. So will the polar bears, Himalayas, snail darters, rain forests, oceans, and all the rest. Ignore the hysterics. They just don't know, same as we always didn't know. Somehow we made it this far. We'll make it another few thousand years until the next ice age. Then we will really have to adapt.


ShePrecedes 4 years, 2 months ago

i continue to sit on the fence regarding this issue. i watch the sun, daily. oh those m-class flares we have finally (!) been having from our previously sleepy sun. meanwhile, i continue to view the climate and geological research being newly released, not the blog sites or expensively empty movies that seek to influence my opinion.

Public Release: 5-Feb-2010 Earth and Planetary Science Letters Understanding past and future climate The notion that scientists understand how changes in Earth's orbit affect climate well enough for estimating long-term natural climate trends that underlie any anthropogenic climate change is challenged by findings published this week. The new research was conducted by a team led by Professor Eelco Rohling of the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science hosted at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. Natural Environment Council, German Science Foundation ""Future research should more precisely narrow down the influence of orbital changes on climate," said Rohling: "This is crucial for a better understanding of underlying natural climate trends over long, millennial timescales. And that is essential for a better understanding of any potential long-term impacts on climate due to man's activities.""

Public Release: 5-Feb-2010 Science Carbonate veins reveal chemistry of ancient seawater The chemical composition of our oceans is not constant but has varied significantly over geological time. In a study published this week in Science, researchers describe a novel method for reconstructing past ocean chemistry using calcium carbonate veins that precipitate from seawater-derived fluids in rocks beneath the seafloor. The research was led by scientists from the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science hosted at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. Natural Environment Research Council

Poll: Americans Support Strong Climate, Energy Policies Feb. 4, 2010


Fugu 4 years, 2 months ago

Climate is changing and it doesn't matter if it is human induced or not. We live in a state where 46 percent of the land cover is for agriculture which depends largely on climate parameters (water, temp).

It is very pertinent and critical to understand how climate shifts will impact the state. Those that are concerned with the economy of the state should respect the content and purpose of these studies.


devobrun 4 years, 2 months ago

Parrothead: 150 years ago, you would have been living in a sod hut in Kansas, or a Tepee.

The heat for those would have been from a fire with an open flame. The fire would have been from wood or dung. The fumes would be sufficiently toxic that you would have to periodically go outside to wake up.

The chicken or rabbit or deer that you would be eating would have been cleaned on a flat rock by the creek. It would have been washed in water that probably contained a lot of bacterial diseases. Cholera was a big problem on the plains.

Most of our clothing is machine made. Modern materials and weaving techniques are faster and less demanding of workers than at any time in our history. You think that workers now have it bad? Read about slaves, and other factory workers in the past. We're all a bunch of whimps compared to the people of the past.

Horse drawn buggies and 1952 Fords without seat-belts are not better than modern cars, airplanes or bicycles.

Everything is better, Parrothead except the complainin' humans who take advantage of all that goodness and remain hostile to the very system that gave it to them...the free market.

You're an ingrate, Parrot. You should thank an engineer and a business person the next time you use the computer, turn on your stove to cook food that was refrigerated. Instead you will complain and decry the demise of the world based upon the latest religion: environmentalism.

The environment is fine. The scares are created reality, kinda like the religions of old. The catholic church made a mistake by including Socratic descriptions of the natural world into their dogma. It got them in trouble visa vi Galileo.
The new church is the church of nature, environmentalism. They are going to get themselves in trouble because of AGW.


monkeyhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

When you think something stinks, it probably does...

"Lawrence, KS (PRWEB) February 10, 2009 -- Kansans and Californians are suffering these days for lack of good governance in years past says technology developer Les Blevins of Advanced Alternative Energy Corp. ( To be successful in the long haul, a state must be proactive and not be overloaded with ineffective, bureaucratic agencies. And state agencies must not be staffed with managers and employees who are too intimidated by the bureaucracy of state systems to be proactive, innovative and even somewhat entrepreneurial."

Smells like somebody (besides algore) is poised to profit from global warming hysteria. Another person who wants everyone to shut up and get out of the way.

"He believes; that now that science has confirmed global warming is real, is being caused by human activities and is changing global weather patterns, and these more adverse weather patterns are resulting in loss of life and billions in crop losses and other property damage worldwide that we must change how we manage solid wastes, what fuels we use and how we use them for heat and power generation."



barrypenders 4 years, 2 months ago

When it's all cleaned up we'll all live to be 70 to 90 years old and then decay away to eventually float around the universe as dust , debris. In the mean time though, it's important to stimulate spiritual emotions to heightend levels that surge blood through and through until a sweat is broken.

Stimulus, Save The Earth, and Posercare live unprecedented

Darwin bless us all


parrothead8 4 years, 2 months ago

devobrun (Anonymous) says… We live in the cleanest environment in the history of man. Our water is cleaner. Our food is cleaner and more varied. We breath air that is conditioned by heating, cooling, and filtering. Our clothing is better. Our transportation is better.

I almost couldn't get past that first sentence because I was laughing so hard.

Our food is cleaner? Go visit a chicken factory. Or a hot-dog plant. Our air? The air inside our homes is, in most instances, dirtier than the air outside our homes.

Our clothing is better? Go visit the factories where most of our clothing gets made and ask the employees how much better it is.

Our transportation is better? Oh, man. You've got a funny definition of better.


Liberty_One 4 years, 2 months ago

Les, you really think that it's those who promote freedom from government that will be villified in the future and not those who've falsely cried that the sky is falling and only handing over more power to the political class will save us?


beaujackson 4 years, 2 months ago

Thanks to Les & his nutty friends for blocking the SLF for 20 years.


KawHawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Back to "so what?" So global climate change is occurring. Do we seriously think there's anything we can do to slow or stop it ? Realistically ? Truth is, China is gonna do whatever it wants, and no amount of hybrid cars, wind farms, or whatever is gonna make a darn bit of difference. The world's gonna get a lot hotter. And no, we won't prepare or plan for that contingincy, since humans NEVER have planned or prepared, always just reacted.


Les Blevins 4 years, 2 months ago

Climate change nay-sayers can have their say now but they will very likely be looked on badly and even vilified in the future. Arctic ice melting could cost global agriculture, real estate and insurance anywhere from $2.4 trillion to $24 trillion by 2050 in damage from rising sea levels, floods and heat waves, according to a report released last Friday. "Everybody around the world is going to bear these costs," said Eban Goodstein, a resource economist at Bard College in New York State who co-authored the report, called "Arctic Treasure, Global Assets Melting Away." He said the report, reviewed by more than a dozen scientists and economists and funded by the Pew Environment Group, an arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, provides us with a first attempt to monetize the cost of the loss of one of the world's great weather makers. "The Arctic is the planet's air conditioner and it's starting to break down," he said. Then there is the national security aspects to consider. According to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. imports about 60% of its oil, with more than two-thirds of it used for transportation. Oil is essential to the basic functioning of the global economy, from the production of goods in factories overseas and across the country to their delivery to local markets. Without oil our military would not be able to defend the country from external threats. In short, we are critically dependent on this non-renewable resource. The vital importance of oil and the corresponding impulse to control or safeguard its supply and price has led to repeated Western interventions in the Middle East and other parts of the world, sparking militant nationalist and revolutionary movements and causing deep and lasting resentments. In the case of the Middle East, outside intervention against secular nationalist movements has led to the rise of Islamist terrorism as an alternative solution for a relatively small but very determined minority. Though limited military action may be necessary in the short term to respond to this threat, America's long-term security ultimately requires intelligent public policy in support of a vibrant domestic market for renewable energy. Our dependence on foreign sources of energy has made America vulnerable to militant religious fundamentalists spawned by repressive regimes — elites whom our government has in some cases covertly placed in power and whom it is pressured to continue to support, either due to lack of friendly, viable alternatives or fear of the unpredictable outcomes of successful popular movements. To minimize such vulnerabilities and the moral and security dilemmas they create, we must put an end to the mad pursuit of fossil fuels across both war-torn and politically volatile parts of the world and right here in Kansas. What KU is up to today is grossly lacking and will not cut the mustard.


KawHawk 4 years, 2 months ago

I gotta register a big fat "So what?" with regards to this work. So they're able to predict climate change effects in the state. So what ? Think any farmers are going to change their practices ? Ha! Think ranchers are going to change ? Ha ! Fundamentally, it's a nice expensive exercise in keeping academics occupied and off the street, but as far as any practical benefit, get real. It'll produce lots of useless publications in journals no body reads, and then be quietly forgotten.


macon47 4 years, 2 months ago

if you think global warming is a problem try paying my natural gas bill from last month

god bless al gore where are you when we need you??


monkeyhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

"The Death of Global Warming

After years in which global warming activists had lectured everyone about the overwhelming nature of the scientific evidence, it turned out that the most prestigious agencies in the global warming movement were breaking laws, hiding data, and making inflated, bogus claims resting on, in some cases, no scientific basis at all. This latest story in the London Times is yet another shocker; the IPCC’s claims that the rainforests were going to disappear as a result of global warming are as bogus and fraudulent as its claims that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. It seems as if a scare story could grab a headline, the IPCC simply didn’t care about whether it was reality-based.

With this in mind, ‘climategate’ — the scandal over hacked emails by prominent climate scientists — looks sinister rather than just unsavory. The British government has concluded that University of East Anglia, home of the research institute that provides the global warming with much of its key data, had violated Britain’s Freedom of Information Act when scientists refused to hand over data so that critics could check their calculations and methods. Breaking the law to hide key pieces of data isn’t just ’science as usual,’ as the global warming movement’s embattled defenders gamely tried to argue. A cover-up like that suggests that you indeed have something to conceal.

The urge to make the data better than it was didn’t just come out of nowhere. The global warmists were trapped into the necessity of hyping the threat by their realization that the actual evidence they had — which, let me emphasize, all hype aside, is serious, troubling and establishes in my mind the need for intensive additional research and investigation, as well as some prudential steps that would reduce CO2 emissions by enhancing fuel use efficiency and promoting alternative energy sources — was not sufficient to get the world’s governments to do what they thought needed to be done. Hyping the threat increasingly doesn’t look like an accident: it looks like it was a conscious political strategy."


devobrun 4 years, 2 months ago

We live in the cleanest environment in the history of man. Our water is cleaner. Our food is cleaner and more varied. We breath air that is conditioned by heating, cooling, and filtering. Our clothing is better. Our transportation is better.

Everything is better than it was here in Kansas 200 years ago. And it is because of corporations operating in the free market, Les.

Chuck Rice doesn't know what the climate will be like in Kansas in 50 years. All the computers in the world will not tell him.

Dietrich Earnhart says the differences in moisture from east to west in the state will grow wider. He doesn't know.

Judy Wu claims that solar cell efficiency is a bottleneck in the production of energy. No Judy, energy storage is the bottleneck. The low duty cycle and lack of storage far outweighs the photoelectric transducer problem.

Joanne Nagel will develop programs to send young folks back to the rez to do nothing. More jerking natives around.

This program is a $20 million boondoggle.


Les Blevins 4 years, 2 months ago

KU’s collaboration with other universities is a good idea, it’s sad though that big business interests have taken control of it and will steer it the way they want it to go rather than how humanity needs it to go.

Looking back we can see that almost all our energy-guzzling, polluting, and dangerous inventions have been designed to power society on releasing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Now it’s time for to power our society on carbon extraction from the atmosphere and we could do so if the folks at KU would get it right but Archer Daniels Midland and Abengoa are long on influence and short on ethics and are out to take control of energy production and delivery to benefit their investors at the expense of the communities of Kansas and beyond

It has been entirely predictable all along that the nest of humanity would sooner or later become fouled. That fouling is abundantly evident today in the form of global warming and climate change, habitat loss, species extinction, and the poisoning of the soil, water, and air—all products of the power given to the big business way of life.

It seems the driving force behind the anthropogenic destruction of Planet Earth is locked inside our skulls. Neuroscientists are just beginning to identify the neural networks of the Technological Mind, but one thing is certain: the irresistible impulse to use technology to make our life better at the expense of future generations is the product of natural selection over the last 1.5 million years, and so it is even more deeply ingrained than our impulse to use language.

When a large proportion of 7 billion selfish minds can be swayed by money and are given access to large devices of destruction such as fossil fueled power plants, and when big corporations control our food, fuel and fiber production things will only get worse.


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