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World on course for hottest year since 1880


The world is on course for the hottest year since records began in 1880 after record-breaking temperatures in four of the first six months of the year, according to meteorologists.

The first six months of 2010 brought a string of warmest-ever global temperatures – not only was last month the hottest June ever recorded, it was the fourth consecutive month in which the standing high mark was topped, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The records show that 2010 has surpassed 1998 for the most record-breaking months in a calendar year, reports The Telegraph, Britain.

The January to June period registered the warmest combined global land and ocean surface temperatures since 1880, when reliable temperature readings began, NOAA said.

The combined land and ocean temperature for the first six months of 2010 are 57.5 degrees Fahrenheit (14.2 degrees Celsius), which is 1.2F (0.68C) above the 20th century average for the January to June period.

In June the combined land and ocean temperature was 61.1F (16.2C), which is 1.2F (0.68C) above the 20th century average of 59.9F (15.5C).

Arctic ice cover – another critical yardstick of global warming – had also retreated more than ever before by July 1, putting it on track to shrink beyond its smallest area to date, in 2007.

On the face of it, these numbers would seem to be alarming confirmation of climate models that put Earth on a path towards an environmental catastrophe.

Without steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the global thermometer could rise by 6C (10.8F) compared to pre-industrial levels, making large swathes of the planet unliveable, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned.

June was the 304th consecutive month with a global surface temperature above the 20th century average, the NOAA reported.

The most recent month to dip below that average was February 1985, more than a quarter century ago.



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A discovery that could help combat global warming


An unassuming former student of the Department of Chemistry, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi, Raja Angamuthu of Karur in Tamil Nadu has risen to become a researcher of global repute overcoming daunting obstacles, with sheer determination to succeed in life. He was among the group of scientists at the Lieden Institute of Chemistry, the Netherlands, that made a path-breaking discovery earlier this year of a molecule that sucks carbon dioxide from air.

Family support

Dr. Raja made his foster parents proud conquering penury all through his years at the Karur Municipal School and the Government Arts College, Karur.

For more than a decade he worked for the most part of night hours at an export company to fund his education and also support his family, before gaining admission to the Bharathidasan University during 2000.

Motivation at the college from teachers who identified the spark in him, and the moral and financial support from his former employer Vasanth and Company, landed him at the university and made it possible for him to complete postgraduation.


As an M.Sc. Chemistry student at the Bharathidasan University, Dr. Raja had worked on a research project under the supervision of M. Palaniandavar, DST Ramanna Fellow, and continued at the university as his research assistant for three years whereby his research article was published in Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, a high-impact journal. Owing to the publication of the article, he got an opportunity to do his Ph.D. in the famous research group of Jan Reedijik at Leiden University. Under the supervision of Scientist Elisabeth Bowman in the research group, Dr. Raja and his group discovered the molecule that sucks carbondioxide from the air using simple dinuclear Copper (I) complexes.

The discovery published in the world’s topmost journals Science and Nature and many other journals could open up a new line of research — the scientific community sees the technique as an attractive way to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — to combat global warming.

Global warming

Presenting their findings in Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Raja and other scientists in the group Philip Byers, Martin Lutz, Anthony L Spek, and Elisabeth Bowman said: “Global warming concern has dramatically increased interest in using carbon dioxide as a feedstock for preparation of value-added compounds, thereby helping to reduce its atmospheric concentration. Here, we describe a dinuclear copper (I) complex that is oxidised in air by carbon dioxide rather than oxygen; the product is a tetranuclear copper (II) complex containing two bridging carbon dioxide – derived oxalate groups. Treatment of the copper (II) oxalate complex in acetonitrile with a soluble lithium salt results in qualitative precipitation of lithium oxalate. The copper (II) complex can then be nearly quantitatively electrochemically reduced at a relatively accessible potential, regenerating the initial dinuclear copper (I) compound. Preliminary results demonstrate six turnovers (producing 12 equivalents of oxalate) during seven hours of catalysis at an applied potential of -0.03 volts versus the normal hydrogen electrode.”

The innovative chemistry offers a faint hope that a catalyst could one day selectively and efficiently remove the greenhouse gas from the air, turning it into organic chemicals, according to the report in Nature, published during January 2010. It said: “Once stripped off the catalyst, the oxalate salt can also form the basis of several chemicals that have practical applications. These include oxalic acid — commonly used in many laboratories and in household products such as rust-proofing treatments — and, after chemical conversion, ethylene glycol, which is used as an antifreeze in cars and as building block for chemical synthesis.”


Now that the discovery has been made, the procedure is bound to trigger researches worldwide for arriving at practical applications to counter global warming, Dr. Raja told The Hindu Education Plus.

A winner of Chemist of the Year Award in 2009 at the Leiden University, a thankful Dr. Raja owes the global recognition for his path-breaking research to his mentors, Dr. Palaniandavar, Coordinator, Centre for Bioinorganic Chemistry, School of Chemistry, Bharathidasan University, and Dr. Elisabeth Bowmam, a long-time friend of Dr. Palaniandavar. “Dr. Raja is a classic example of the maxim: Hard work pays. He started shouldering large responsibilities right from his school days. There is more to come,” said Sundarrajan, proprietor of Vasanth and Company, Karur.

Dr. Raja Angamuthu is all set to proceed to the University of Illinois for his two-year post-doctoral studies under the Rubicon programme. The programme supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the country’s principal science funding body, by means of a national competition, is directed at promising young postdoctoral researchers who are still at the start of their careers but whose academic strengths give them the potential to become established figures in the Dutch research world.

Report by R. Krishnamoorthy

This report was published on The Hindu


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Global Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling



Humans and climate change can take credit for a much warmer Arctic, according to new research

By David Biello

Courtesy: The Scientific American


Based on its long-term orbit, Earth should be heading into an ice age. But instead of continuing to cool—as it had been for at least the past 2,000 years—the Arctic has started to warm. And the reason is humans’ impact on the composition of the atmosphere, new research suggests.

To look at this trend, geologist Darrell Kaufman of Northern Arizona University and a consortium of colleagues reconstructed Arctic temperatures decade by decade over the past two millennia by pulling

sediment cores from the bottoms of 14 Arctic lakes—backed up by records in tree rings and ice cores.

In warm summers, relatively more sediment is deposited thanks to

more meltwater from the glaciers that create these lakes, and the abundance of algae in the sediment layers reveals the length of growing seasons. So, these sediment cores provide a picture of the climate that goes back millennia.

The record they reveal is of a cooling pole. As the Earth has moved slightly further away from the sun due to

vagaries in its orbit—it’s roughly 600,000 miles further away now than in 1 C.E.—some parts of the Arctic received as much as 6 watts per meter squared less sunlight than in 1 C.E. That, in turn, has led to a cooling rate of roughly 0.2 degrees Celsius per 1,000 years. But at some point in the 20th century, that trend stopped and reversed.

"Orbitally driven summer insolation continued to decrease through the 20th century, implying that summer temperatures should have continued to cool," the researchers wrote this week in the September 4 edition of Science. "Instead, the

shift to higher temperatures during the 20th century reversed the millennial scale cooling trend."

In the past decade, summertime Arctic temperatures have been 1.4 degrees Celsius higher on average than would be expected and 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than in 1900. And the Arctic is merely the trendsetter—the northern-most latitudes are among the

fastest-warming parts of the globe due to various feedbacks. For example, melting Arctic sea ice exposes more ocean, which in turn absorbs more of the sunlight’s warmth and further increases warming.
A graph of the warming trend largely replicates the so-called "
hockey stick," a previous reconstruction that showed relatively stable temperatures suddenly spiking upward in recent history. It also accurately reveals the impact of historical climate events like the Little Ice Age, which took place from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Without greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, a true ice age might have been expected as a 21,000-year wobble in Earth’s tilt relative to the sun that shifts the

intensity of sunlight. That cooling trend wouldn’t have reversed naturally for at least another 4,000 years. Yet, despite this decline, Arctic temperatures have soared and the most likely culprit is the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning, forest clearing and other human activity, Kaufmann and his colleagues wrote.

"The most recent 10-year interval (1999–2008) was the warmest of the past 200 decades," they wrote. "Temperatures were about 1.4 degrees C higher than the projected values based on the linear cooling trend and were even more anomalous than previously documented."

Of course, summer temperatures when the warming portion of the wobble cycle peaked roughly 7,500 years ago were at least 0.8 degrees Celsius warmer than 20th-century average temperatures. Nonetheless, this current, countercyclical warming trend will likely continue—potentially exceeding that earlier warming—unless

greenhouse gas levels begin to come back down. In the meantime, polar denizens adapted for the cooler climate can blame humanity for a balmier Arctic.

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