Case study of the effects of atmospheric aerosols and regional haze on agriculture: an opportunity to enhance crop yields in China through emission controls?
The effect of atmospheric aerosols and regional haze from air pollution on the yields of rice and winter wheat grown in China is assessed. The assessment is based on estimates of aerosol optical depths over China, the effect of these optical depths on the solar irradiance reaching the earth's surface, and the response of rice and winter wheat grown in Nanjing to the change in solar irradiance. Two sets of aerosol optical depths are presented: one based on a coupled, regional climate/air quality model simulation and the other inferred from solar radiation measurements made over a 12-year period at meteorological stations in China. The model-estimated optical depths are significantly smaller than those derived from observations, perhaps because of errors in one or both sets of optical depths or because the data from the meteorological stations has been affected by local pollution. Radiative transfer calculations using the smaller, model-estimated aerosol optical depths indicate that the so-called "direct effect" of regional haze results in an approximately 5-30% reduction in the solar irradiance reaching some of China's most productive agricultural regions. Crop-response model simulations suggest an approximately 1:1 relationship between a percentage increase (decrease) in total surface solar irradiance and a percentage increase (decrease) in the yields of rice and wheat. Collectively, these calculations suggest that regional haze in China is currently depressing optimal yields of approximately 70% of the crops grown in China by at least 5-30%. Reducing the severity of regional haze in China through air pollution control could potentially result in a significant increase in crop yields and help the nation meet its growing food demands in the coming decades. (+info)
Deflection of the local interstellar dust flow by solar radiation pressure.
Interstellar dust grains intercepted by the dust detectors on the Ulysses and Galileo spacecrafts at heliocentric distances from 2 to 4 astronomical units show a deficit of grains with masses from 1 x 10(-17) to 3 x 10(-16) kilograms relative to grains intercepted outside 4 astronomical units. To divert grains out of the 2- to 4-astronomical unit region, the solar radiation pressure must be 1.4 to 1.8 times the force of solar gravity. These figures are consistent with the optical properties of spherical or elongated grains that consist of astronomical silicates or organic refractory material. Pure graphite grains with diameters of 0.2 to 0.4 micrometer experience a solar radiation pressure force as much as twice the force of solar gravity. (+info)
Ozone depletion and UVB radiation: impact on plant DNA damage in southern South America.
The primary motivation behind the considerable effort in studying stratospheric ozone depletion is the potential for biological consequences of increased solar UVB (280-315 nm) radiation. Yet, direct links between ozone depletion and biological impacts have been established only for organisms of Antarctic waters under the influence of the ozone "hole;" no direct evidence exists that ozone-related variations in UVB affect ecosystems of temperate latitudes. Indeed, calculations based on laboratory studies with plants suggest that the biological impact of ozone depletion (measured by the formation of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers in DNA) is likely to be less marked than previously thought, because UVA quanta (315-400 nm) may also cause significant damage, and UVA is unaffected by ozone depletion. Herein, we show that the temperate ecosystems of southern South America have been subjected to increasingly high levels of ozone depletion during the last decade. We found that in the spring of 1997, despite frequent cloud cover, the passages of the ozone hole over Tierra del Fuego (55 degrees S) caused concomitant increases in solar UV and that the enhanced ground-level UV led to significant increases in DNA damage in the native plant Gunnera magellanica. The fluctuations in solar UV explained a large proportion of the variation in DNA damage (up to 68%), particularly when the solar UV was weighted for biological effectiveness according to action spectra that assume a sharp decline in quantum efficiency with increasing wavelength from the UVB into the UVA regions of the spectrum. (+info)
Sun-compass orientation in homing pigeons: compensation for different rates of change in azimuth?
Birds using their sun compass must compensate for the apparent movement of the sun with the help of their internal clock. The movement of the sun is not uniform, being much faster around noon than near sunrise and sunset. If the sun-compass mechanisms are not adjusted to these variations, considerable errors might arise. To learn whether birds are able to take the different rates of sun azimuth change into account, we subjected homing pigeons to a 4 h fast clock-shift. The experiments were performed near Auckland, New Zealand, at a latitude of 37 degrees S, where the expected deflections for a 4 h shift in summer vary from less than 40 degrees to more than 120 degrees, depending on time of day. One group of birds was released just after sunrise or during the corresponding period in the afternoon when the expected deflections were minimal, the other group during late morning when they were maximal. The different sizes of the observed deflections - between 26 degrees and 51 degrees in the first group, and between 107 degrees and 153 degrees in the second group - clearly show that the birds' compensation mechanisms are closely tuned to the varying rates of change in sun azimuth. The results suggest that pigeons have a rather precise internal representation of the sun curve, which makes the avian sun compass a highly accurate mechanism of direction finding. (+info)
Solar wind record on the moon: deciphering presolar from planetary nitrogen.
Ion microprobe analyses show that solar wind nitrogen associated with solar wind hydrogen implanted in the first tens of nanometers of lunar regolith grains is depleted in 15N by at least 24% relative to terrestrial atmosphere, whereas a nonsolar component associated with deuterium-rich hydrogen, detected in silicon-bearing coatings at the surface of some ilmenite grains, is enriched in 15N. Systematic enrichment of 15N in terrestrial planets and bulk meteorites relative to the protosolar gas cannot be explained by isotopic fractionation in nebular or planetary environments but requires the contribution of 15N-rich compounds to the total nitrogen in planetary materials. Most of these compounds are possibly of an interstellar origin and never equilibrated with the 15N-depleted protosolar nebula. (+info)
World cup soccer players tend to be born with sun and moon in adjacent zodiacal signs.
The ecliptic elongation of the moon with respect to the sun does not show uniform distribution on the birth dates of the 704 soccer players selected for the 1998 World Cup. However, a uniform distribution is expected on astronomical grounds. The World Cup players show a very pronounced tendency (p = 0.00001) to be born on days when the sun and moon are in adjacent zodiacal signs. (+info)
Migration along orthodromic sun compass routes by arctic birds.
Flight directions of birds migrating at high geographic and magnetic latitudes can be used to test bird orientation by celestial or geomagnetic compass systems under polar conditions. Migration patterns of arctic shorebirds, revealed by tracking radar studies during an icebreaker expedition along the Northwest Passage in 1999, support predicted sun compass trajectories but cannot be reconciled with orientation along either geographic or magnetic loxodromes (rhumb lines). Sun compass routes are similar to orthodromes (great circle routes) at high latitudes, showing changing geographic courses as the birds traverse longitudes and their internal clock gets out of phase with local time. These routes bring the shorebirds from high arctic Canada to the east coast of North America, from which they make transoceanic flights to South America. The observations are also consistent with a migration link between Siberia and the Beaufort Sea region by way of sun compass routes across the Arctic Ocean. (+info)
Can skin wrinkling in a site that has received limited sun exposure be used as a marker of health status and biological age?
OBJECTIVES: to determine if skin wrinkling in a site that had received limited sun exposure may be a marker of health status and biological age. DESIGN: population-based, cross-sectional study. PARTICIPANTS: we evaluated the health status of representative samples of elderly Greek-born people living in Melbourne, Greeks living in rural Greece, Anglo-Celtic Australians living in Melbourne and Swedes living in Sweden. We carried out microtopographic assessment of their skin and measured plasma dehydroepiandrosterone concentrations. METHODS: we derived activities of daily living, well-being, memory and general health status scores from a cross-cultural questionnaire. We measured skin wrinkling using cutaneous microtopographic methods and plasma dehydroepiandrosterone by enzyme immuno-assay. RESULTS: skin wrinkling was positively correlated with age (r(s)=0.27, P<0.0001) and negatively with body mass index (r(s)=-0.19, P<0.0001). Therefore, all analyses were controlled for these variables. Plasma dehydroepiandrosterone was higher in smokers than non-smokers (2.86 vs 2.08; P<0.001) and men had significantly higher plasma dehydroepiandrosterone than women (2.74 vs 1.69; P<0.0001). In the pooled data, skin wrinkling was negatively associated with general health score (r(s)=-0.13, P<0.01) and activities of daily living score (r(s)=-0.14, P<0.05) after controlling for age, body mass index and smoking. These associations were more pronounced in women. Finally, those with the least skin wrinkling had the highest dehydroepiandrosterone level (r(s)=-0.12, P=0.06) after adjusting for age, smoking and sex. CONCLUSION: skin wrinkling in a site with limited sun exposure might be used as a marker of health status and, to some extent, biological age--particularly for women. (+info)