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From Kansas State University's:

Consortium for Agricultural Soils Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases (CASMGS)



Charles W. Rice, K-State Department of Agronomy, National CASMGS Director

(785) 532-7217 cwrice@ksu.edu

Scott Staggenborg, K-State Department of Agronomy (785) 532-7214 sstaggen@ksu.edu

Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications (785) 532-7105 swatson@ksu.edu



September 8, 2010

No. 79



* Grazing Management Contributions to Net Global Warming Potential

* Effect of Long-Term Application of Biosolids on Soil Carbon Sequestration

* Biochar’s Ability to Reduce Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Soils

* Greenhouse Gas Calculator for Farming Systems

* Black Carbon as Warming Agent: Important Factors

* Irrigation Lowers Temperatures on Regional Scales



* Legislative and Regulatory Update on Climate Change Activity

* Key Indicators of Global Warming: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Report



* Greenland Glacier Calves Island Four Times the Size of Manhattan






Grazing Management Contributions to

Net Global Warming Potential


A study was undertaken to determine the net global warming potential (GWP) of three grazing management systems located within the northern Great Plains. Grazing management systems included two native vegetation pastures (moderately grazed and heavily grazed) and a heavily grazed crested wheatgrass pasture near Mandan, ND. Factors evaluated for their contribution to GWP included (i) CO2 emissions associated with N fertilizer production and application, (ii) literature-derived estimates of CH4 production for enteric fermentation, (iii) change in soil organic carbon (SOC) over 44 years using archived soil samples, and (iv) soil–atmosphere N2O and CH4 fluxes over 3 years using static chamber methodology.


Analysis of SOC indicated all pastures to be significant sinks for SOC, with sequestration rates ranging from 0.39 to 0.46 Mg C per hectare per year. All pastures were minor sinks for CH4. Greater N inputs within on the crested wheatgrass pasture contributed to annual N2O emission nearly threefold greater than either of the native grass pastures. Due to differences in stocking rate, CH4 production from enteric fermentation was nearly threefold less in the moderately grazed native pasture than either the crested wheatgrass or heavily grazed native pastures.


When factors contributing to net GWP were summed, the heavily and moderately grazed native pastures were found to serve as net CO2 equivalent sinks, while the crested wheatgrass pasture CWP was a net CO2 equivalent source. Values for GWP and GHG intensity, however, indicated net reductions in GHG emissions can be most effectively achieved through moderate stocking rates on native vegetation.


The researchers were M.A. Leibig, J.R. Gross, S.L. Kronberg, and R.L. Phillips, USDA-ARS Northern Great Plains Research Lab, Mandan, ND.


Source: Journal of Environmental Quality, doi: 10.2134/jeq2009.0272Vol. 39 No. 3, p. 799-809







Effect of Long-Term Application

of Biosolids on Soil Carbon Sequestration


Investigations were conducted in Fulton County, Illinois on the impact of application of biosolids for land reclamation on soil C sequestration. In this study, 41 fields received biosolids at a cumulative loading rate from 455 to 1654 dry Mg per hectare for 8 to 23 years, from 1972 to 2004. The fields were cropped with corn, wheat, and sorghum, and also with soybean and grass or fallowed. Soil organic carbon (SOC) increased rapidly with the application of biosolids, whereas it fluctuated slightly in fertilizer controls. The peak SOC in the 0- to 15-cm depth of biosolids-amended fields ranged from 4 to 7%, and was greater at higher rates of biosolids.


In fields where biosolids application ceased for 22 years, SOC was still much higher than the initial levels. Over the entire time period, the mean net soil C sequestration was 1.73 (0.54–3.05) Mg C per hectare per year in biosolids-amended fields as compared with −0.07 to 0.17 Mg C per hectare per year in fertilizer controls. This demonstrates the high potential of soil C sequestration by the land application of biosolids.


The study was conducted by G. Tian and colleagues at the Environmental Monitoring and Research Division, Research and Development Dept., Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.


Source: Journal of Environmental Quality, doi: 10.2134/jeq2007.0471Vol. 38 No. 1, p. 61-74







Biochar’s Ability to Reduce

Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Soils


Research by Bhupinder Pal Singh from Industry and Investment New South Wales and Balwant Singh from the University of Sydney has demonstrated that biochar, a type of charcoal applied to soils in order to capture and store carbon, can reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, and inorganic nitrogen runoff from agriculture settings.


The research team tested the effects of four types of biochar on nitrous oxide emission and nitrogen leaching from two different soil types. Their results are reported in the July-August 2010 Journal of Environmental Quality.


The study revealed for the first time that interactions between biochar and soil that occur over time are important when assessing the influence of biochar on nitrogen losses from soil. The scientists subjected soils samples to three wetting-drying cycles, to simulate a range of soil moisture during the five-month study period. Initially, biochar application produced inconsistent effects. Several early samples produced greater nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching than the control samples.


However, during the third wetting-drying cycle, four months after biochar application, all biochar treatments reduced nitrous oxide emissions by up to 73%. The researchers suggest that reductions in nitrous oxide emissions over time were due to "aging" of the biochars in soil.


This research highlights that impacts of biochar on nitrogen transformations in soil may change over time and hence stresses the need for long-term studies to assess biochar's potential to reduce nitrogen losses from soil.


-- ScienceDaily, Aug. 9, 2010







Greenhouse Gas Calculator

for Farming Systems


The Farming Systems Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator has been developed by Claire McSwiney, Sven Bohm, and Phil Robertson of the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University, and Peter Grace, Queensland University of Technology. This web-based tool linked to the SOCRATES soil carbon process model, provides a simple introduction to the concepts and magnitudes of gas emissions associated with crop management.


Users choose a county of interest on an introductory screen and are taken to the input/output window, where they choose crops, yields, tillage practices, or nitrogen fertilizer rates. Default values are provided based on convention and county averages. Outputs include major contributors of greenhouse gases in field crops: soil carbon change, nitrous oxide (N2O) emission, fuel use, and fertilizer. The paper contrasts conventional tillage and no-till in a corn–soybean–wheat rotation, and compares continuous corn fertilized at two N rates. In corn years, N2O was the dominant GHG, due to high fertilizer requirements for corn. No-till management reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 50% due to net soil carbon storage.


The calculator demonstrates how cropping systems and management choices affect greenhouse gas emissions in field crops.


Source: J. Nat. Resour. Life Sci. Educ. 39:125–131 (2010)







Black Carbon as Warming Agent:

Important Factors


Abstract: Black carbon is generated by fossil-fuel combustion and biomass burning. Black-carbon aerosols absorb solar radiation, and are probably a major source of global warming. However, the extent of black-carbon-induced warming is dependent on the concentration of sulphate and organic aerosols—which reflect solar radiation and cool the surface—and the origin of the black carbon. Here we examined the impact of black-carbon-to-sulphate ratios on net warming in China, using surface and aircraft measurements of aerosol plumes from Beijing, Shanghai and the Yellow Sea. The Beijing plumes had the highest ratio of black carbon to sulphate, and exerted a strong positive influence on the net warming. Compiling all the data, we show that solar-absorption efficiency was positively correlated with the ratio of black carbon to sulphate. Furthermore, we show that fossil-fuel-dominated black-carbon plumes were approximately 100% more efficient warming agents than biomass-burning-dominated plumes. We suggest that climate-change-mitigation policies should aim at reducing fossil-fuel black-carbon emissions, together with the atmospheric ratio of black carbon to sulphate.


M. V. Ramana, V. Ramanathan, Y. Feng, S-C. Yoon, S-W. Kim, G. R. Carmichael & J. J. Schauer

Nature Geoscience 3, 542 - 545 (2010) doi:10.1038/ngeo918








Irrigation Lowers Temperatures

On Regional Scales


A new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research explains that irrigation can have a significant cooling effect on regional temperatures, according to the study's lead author, Michael Puma, a hydrologist who works jointly with Columbia University's Earth Institute and its affiliated NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. An important question for the future is what happens to the climate if the water goes dry and the cooling disappears? How much warming is being hidden by irrigation?


Scientists are just beginning to get a handle on irrigation's impact on climate change. Puma and his coauthor, Benjamin Cook, a climatologist at Goddard and Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, are the first to look at the historic effects of mass watering on climate globally by analyzing temperature, precipitation and irrigation trends in a series of model simulations for the last century. They found that irrigation-linked cooling grew noticeably in the 1950s as irrigation rates exploded, and that more rain is now falling downstream of these heavily watered regions.


Globally, irrigation's effect on climate is small -- one-tenth of one degree C (about 0.2 degree F). But regionally, the cooling can match or exceed the impacts of greenhouse gases, say the scientists. For example, the study found some of the largest effects in India's arid Indus River Basin, where irrigation may be cooling the climate up to 3 degrees C, (5.4 degrees F) and up to 1-2 degrees C in other heavily irrigated regions such as California's Central Valley and parts of China. The study also found as much as .5 degree C cooling in heavily watered regions of Europe, Asia and North America during the summer.


"The study points to the importance of including irrigation in regional and global climate models so that we can anticipate precipitation and temperature impacts, and better manage our land, water and food in stressed environments," Puma said.


-- ScienceDaily, Sept. 8, 2010







Legislative and Regulatory Update

on Climate Change Activity


The effort to pass climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate has been put on hold for the remainder of this year. No action is expected until after the elections, and even then the outlook for a bill in the Senate is uncertain.


That leaves three main sources of activity on climate change and carbon markets in the U.S.:


* Regional coalitions of state and provincial governments. There are three active coalitions: the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the northeast and mid-Atlantic region, the Midwestern GHG Reduction Accord (MGGRA), and the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) in the western U.S. and Canada. The RGGI was the first to establish a cap-and-trade system and an auction mechanism for carbon credits in that region. Its future may be affected by the upcoming elections. The MGGRA has not yet formalized any concrete mechanisms for capping emissions or trading carbon credits, and its future is also dependent on the results of upcoming elections. The WCI is on the verge of establishing emissions caps and a trading mechanism. However, emissions trading opponents are trying to get a referendum passed in November’s elections that would stop California from taking part in the WCI until its unemployment rate falls below 5.5 per cent for one year. If that referendum passes in November, the future of that coalition would be in doubt.


* EPA regulations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proceeding with its plans to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions, although there have been some attempts to prohibit this either through new legislation or legal injunctions. Nothing has stopped the process so far, however. Starting next year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules would require large power utilities, manufacturers, and oil refiners to get permits to operate or prove they are using the latest green technology to cut emissions when building new capacity. The EPA is effectively trimming the Clean Air Act, or "tailoring" it, so it only applies to the biggest emitters of gases blamed for warming the planet. Without the tailoring, small emitters such as hospitals and schools would be regulated and overwhelm the agency with paperwork.


The rules would subject power plants, factories and oil refineries that emit 75,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and already under clean air regulations to get operating permits beginning in January 2011. Regulated polluters would include big coal-fired power plants and heavy energy users such as cement, glass and steel makers. Waste landfills and factories not already covered by clean air laws that emit at least 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year would get a six-month extension and would not be regulated until July 2011. Sources that pollute less than 50,000 tonnes per year would not be regulated until 2016, if ever.


* Voluntary markets. Voluntary carbon markets began several years ago in the U.S., and then in other countries. Activity in these markets has slowed, at least in the U.S., as the future of climate change legislation has become more and more uncertain in the Senate. There is still some activity in the U.S., but it is more fragmented now than it was just a year or so ago. Those currently involved in this market tend to want carbon credits with a high quality standard, which would be more likely to be usable in any climate change program to come out of legislation. At the moment, such high-quality carbon credits tend to be limited in scope and confined to specific projects rather than being associated with a broad category of greenhouse gas mitigation activities.


-- Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications







Key Indicators of Global Warming:

U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Report


In July, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report titled "The 2009 State of the Climate Report." A summary of the report states:


A comprehensive review of key climate indicators confirms the world is warming and the past decade was the warmest on record. More than 300 scientists from 48 countries analyzed data on 37 climate indicators, including sea ice, glaciers and air temperatures. A more detailed review of 10 of these indicators, selected because they are clearly and directly related to surface temperatures, all tell the same story: global warming is undeniable.


For example, the surface air temperature record is compiled from weather stations around the world, and analyses of those temperatures from four different institutions show an unmistakable upward trend across the globe. But even without those measurements, nine other major indicators of climate change agree: the earth is growing warmer and has been for more than three decades.


A warmer climate means higher sea level, humidity and temperatures in the air and ocean. A warmer climate also means less snow cover, melting Arctic sea ice and shrinking glaciers.



Seven of these indicators would be expected to increase in a warming world and observations show that they are, in fact, increasing. Three would be expected to decrease and they are, in fact, decreasing.


Highlights of the NOAA report can be seen at:



The entire NOAA report can be seen at:







Greenland Glacier Calves Island

Four Times the Size of Manhattan


A University of Delaware researcher reported that an "ice island" four times the size of Manhattan calved from Greenland's Petermann Glacier on August 5. The last time the Arctic lost such a large chunk of ice was in 1962.


Satellite imagery of this remote area at 81 degrees N latitude and 61 degrees W longitude, about 620 miles [1,000 km] south of the North Pole, reveals that Petermann Glacier lost about one-quarter of its 43-mile long [70 km] floating ice-shelf, said Andreas Muenchow, associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.


Petermann Glacier, the parent of the new ice island, is one of the two largest remaining glaciers in Greenland that terminate in floating shelves. The glacier connects the great Greenland ice sheet directly with the ocean.


The island will enter Nares Strait, a deep waterway between northern Greenland and Canada where, since 2003, a University of Delaware ocean and ice observing array has been maintained by Muenchow with collaborators in Oregon), British Columbia, and England.


The last time such a massive ice island formed was in 1962 when Ward Hunt Ice Shelf calved a 230 square-mile island, smaller pieces of which became lodged between real islands inside Nares Strait. Petermann Glacier spawned smaller ice islands in 2001 (34 square miles) and 2008 (10 square miles). In 2005, the Ayles Ice Shelf disintegrated and became an ice island (34 square miles) about 60 miles to the west of Petermann Fjord.


ScienceDaily, August 7, 2010










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