SALIENT – SciFi Action Thriller – out 30.11.17

SALIENT

“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” – Professor Stephen Hawking

Prologue

Mount Shasta, Cascade Mountains, California.

MOUNT SHASTA’S SNOWY 14,179 feet high peak loomed skyward from the horizon, some one hundred or so miles distant. A sign on the side of the interstate confirmed they’d just entered the Cascade Range, Siskiyou County, California. The information post also confirmed that Mount Shasta was still a potentially active volcano and was the second highest peak in the Cascades, the fifth highest in California.

“Wow, cool, isn’t that something eh?” the brunette in the passenger seat said, turning to her girlfriend, Jessica.

“Yeah looks great Madison, a cold spooky looking mountain,” Jessica said, placing a length of strawberry blonde hair behind her ear. “The view sure beats sitting in that real estate office back in Fairbanks though; and I’ve only been there five minutes,” she added.

“Well, you can see where all the stories come from!” Tom, her part-time, on-off British partner said, looking up from the rucksack he was checking in the back of the Chevrolet Suburban.

“Dude, don’t tell me you believe all that crap?!” Conner said, turning his head away from the road for a second in order to project his voice over the sound of Lana Del Ray’s National Anthem, pumping from the Chevrolet’s stereo.

“You’re always so skeptical about everything,” said Madison, Conner’s current girlfriend, who was seated in the passenger seat next to him.

Conner shrugged. “Whatever guys, you can save your bullshit scary stories for later when we’re around the campfire!”

“Don’t worry, I intend to,” Tom said, his English accent dampened after three years at M.I.T, where he’d been studying physics and astronomy.

The four of them had been travelling along Interstate 5 after stopping in the town of Redding about an hour earlier, for a coffee and burger break. Outside the window on their left, the pine-covered mountains of the Shasta Trinity National Forest – California’s largest national forest – rose up from the valley floor.

“How much longer is it, Conner?” Tom asked, as he finished checking though the contents of his backpack.

“The campsite’s off the A10, about half an hour passed the town of Shasta. It’s probably going to be closed, but that’s what makes this trip more fun, we’ll be pretty much alone,” Connor shouted back.

“What do you mean closed?” Jess asked, from the rear.

Tom laughed. “Well, not really closed, just not fully open. It’s only a campsite, it’s just that legit visiting times usually finish September fifteenth I think.”

Jessica rolled her eyes. “Well it’s the sixteenth today, idiots!”

“Exactly, we’ll be fine, just means fewer people, much more romantic,” Tom replied.

“Well I hope we can get in,” Jessica said.

Connor continued along the interstate which, despite the many hours of driving, didn’t seem to be taking them any closer to Mount Shasta. Beautiful vistas of the park’s pine forests stretched out on either side of the highway, which compensated any traveler’s journey through the mountain range. After a short while, an interstate sign confirmed they were now on the Cascade Wonderland Highway, which twisted and turned northwards as it tracked the Sacramento River which meandered along below on their right side.

The time was approaching five p.m. and after another forty-five minutes of driving they reached the town of Mt. Shasta, just as the mid-September sun started to dip low on the horizon, its last rays illuminating the snow-flanked sides of the mountain in a golden hue.

“It does look stunning,” Jessica said, before sipping some bottled water.

“And a little eerie,” Madison replied, surveying the high peak through a small set of high-powered binoculars.

“Shouldn’t be long now, we’ll be through town in no time and turning off onto the A10. Then it’s only about a forty minute drive to the camp site. Hopefully we can get the tents up just before dark,” Conner said, as he negotiated a sharp right-hand bend.

“Cool, we’d better, I don’t want to be putting up tents in the pitch dark,” Madison said.

“No way, screw that!” Jessica added.

“We’ll get them up, stop worrying,” Tom said, as he checked out the half-empty streets of the town. “Did you guys know that the total population of this place is only about three thousand?”

“Well I’m not surprised. The volcano looks beautiful, but what would you do here? Be as boring as hell after a while,” Madison said, pushing her shoulder-length dark hair behind her ear.

Conner turned off the main street, following a signpost to the A10 mountain road. As he slowed down to take the bend, they passed a gun store. Displayed outside were various stuffed animals; bear, elk and deer and one odd-looking creature which was standing bipedal, around eight feet tall. “Lol, what the hell is that,” Jessica said, pointing at the menagerie of animals outside the store.

Tom craned his neck to look out towards where Jessica was pointing, and then laughed. “That’s supposed to be a yeti, you know Bigfoot. They’ve been spotted around here apparently.”

“You’re kidding right!” Jessica said.

“Oh jeez, of course he is. That’s not a real Bigfoot. There’s no such thing, just made up stories by assholes trying to make some bucks with nothing better do to!” Conner said.

Tom shrugged. “Who knows? People swear they have seen the creatures, but Conner’s right. No real evidence has ever been presented to confirm their existence, and most of the stories are hoaxes, no doubt.”

“OK guys, can you shut up, you’re beginning to freak me out,” Madison said, turning around.

Conner maneuvered the Chevrolet around a deep pothole that had formed in the road, continued to the junction and turned right onto the A10 mountain road. Either side of the narrow road the pine forest grew denser and stretched out like a carpet of green which surrounding the steep snow-white sides of Mount Shasta, just a few miles distant.

Madison slid the window down, letting the cool September air rush into the truck. “Wow, can you smell that,” she said, referring to the refreshing fragrance of pine.

“Yeah, smells like my mum’s bathroom freshener back home in the U.K.,” Tom said, smirking.

After thirty minutes of driving along the mountain road, a yellow, and barely visible sign post, confirmed that it was only 2.5 miles to the Pine Crags Wilderness Campsite.

“We’re almost there guys,” Conner shouted.

They continued on for another fifteen minutes until finally, on the left, the road branched off. Another sign, pushed over to an angle of forty-five degrees, as if hit by something, confirmed that they’d reached the camp site.

Conner pulled into the large empty parking area and killed the engine.

“Look at that guys, this is what we came for,” Conner said, looking out at their surroundings. Just beyond the hard natural earth parking lot was small lake, and beyond, pine-covered mountain peaks as far as the eye could see, all set against the backdrop of the vast volcano, which rose skyward half a mile or so away from their position.

“Wow, amazing! Well let’s go find a suitable spot and get our tents up before darkness falls,” Madison said, opening the truck door.

“Good idea,” Tom said, “You ready babe, let’s go,” he said to Jessica.

The four of them grabbed their backpacks from the back of the truck and headed off in the direction of a small hut, near to the edge of the lake. The hut appeared empty. There was a Season Closed sign across the Perspex screen where the campsite warden would usually sit. The hut itself was locked.

“Ah well, at least the stay won’t cost us anything,” Tom said, peering into the hut.

“If the showers don’t work, we can always bath ‘Au natural’ in the lake,” Conner added.

“You got to be kidding! It’ll be bloody freezing in there,” Jessica replied, rolling her eyes.

“Come on, looks like a good spot over there,” Tom said, pointed passed the hut towards a clearing in the forest, around fifty feet away, just shy of the lake.

The four of them headed over towards the spot. As they got closer, a rancid smell became noticeable, overpowering the fragrant scent of pine.

“Jeez, it stinks,” Jessica said, screwing up her nose.

“It sure isn’t very pleasant,” Tom said, trekking behind Conner to the clearing.

“Ewe, we can’t sleep here, it bloody stinks like something just died,” Madison said.

The four of them headed over to a large tree bordering the clearing. As they rounded it, a buzzing sound, increasing in volume, became evident.

“Ah shit! What the hell is that?” Jessica said, stopping in her tracks, snapping a hard twig underfoot as she did, the loud crack startling everyone.

On the ground, obviously dead by the way its neck was twisted at an unnatural angle, and partially covered in dry leaves, was a large bloodied stag, the source of the stench.

“Stay there guys,” Tom said, to Jessica and Madison as he and Conner walked over to the dead animal.

The source of the buzzing was the hundreds of flies feasting off, and laying eggs on the exposed flesh of the stag, where its hind legs and abdomen had been ripped open by a wild animal, exposing what was left of its torn and shredded innards.

“Christ, a black bear you think?” Tom suggested glancing up at Conner.

“Got to be, or a coyote maybe?”

Tom shrugged. “I’ve never seen a coyote taking down something this big before.”

“Come on, let’s get back to the girls, best not scare them,” Conner added.

They walked back over to where the girls were waiting.

“We’ll find another place to set up camp. It’s just a stag, been dead for twelve hours or so. Some coyotes must have brought it down. Don’t worry, once we have the camp fire going, they won’t come anywhere near us,” Tom said, trying to reassure the girls.

“We can go over there,” Conner said, pointing to another clearing, about seventy feet further along the lake edge.

As they walked alongside the lake, a distant cry from an animal or bird, made its presence known from deep within the forest.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

TOM HAMMERED THE final tent peg into the ground, securing the second of the two Ozark Trail two-man tents that he and Conner had just finished erecting in the pine forest clearing. “Nice one mate, just in time. Sun is just about to disappear,” Conner said.

“Well done guys. At least that icky smell has gone,” Madison said.

“Come on; let’s get the fire going quick. I’ll go search for some tinder,” Jessica said, rubbing her hands together as she headed towards the trees that bordered the clearing, Madison following her.

“Help me get some stones for the fire,” Conner said to Tom.

Tom was looking up towards the volcano and its snow covered sides, which were reflecting enough of the light that was left to illuminate the surrounding forest in an ethereal glow.

“Yep, sure,” Tom said, peeling his eyes away from the surreal view.

The pair of them headed to the lake edge and found enough small boulders to arrange around a depression they’d found near the tents, to make a perfect fire.

 

 

Forty feet away, Jessica and Madison were in the forest gathering large twigs. They had a good armful each, but the fading light was making it difficult to see. “Come on, let’s get back, I think we’ve enough here,” Jess said.

Madison nodded. As they turned to walk back, they heard a distant crack, like a large tree branch, or piece of wood snapping from deep in the forest.

“What the hell was that?” Madison whispered.

“God knows. Probably just an animal,” Jessica said. “Come on, let’s get back and get the fire started,” she added, as they both turned and headed back to the lake edge.

“Here you go guys,” the girls said, dumping the tinder they’d collected on the floor by the ring of boulders.

“Nice one,” Tom said, grabbing the twigs and sticks and arranging them inside the stone ring. A few minutes later he’d managed to set the smaller twigs alight and the tinder was now burning nicely. The flickering flames warmed and bathed the four of them, and the small clearing, in an orange glow.

Tom opened two tins of baked beans and stirred them in a pan which was resting on a couple of flat stones. They quickly started to heat up.

“So, come on Mr. Englishman, tell us some stories about this place,” Madison said, as she lit a Marlborough and took a long drag on it.

“Yeah, go for it,” Jess said, as she shifted on the blanket that her and Madison were sitting on.

Conner rolled his eyes. “Hold on, I’m going to get us a couple of beers,” he said, as he got up and headed over to the truck.

Tom finished stirring the beans and moved the pan out of the heat slightly. “Well, as you know Mount Shasta is an active volcano, part of the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire. If that wasn’t enough, there’s plenty of weird stories connected with this place,” he said, glancing up at the mountain.

“Well, go on, tell us some!” Madison said, leaning into towards the fire.

Tom gave the beans another stir. “Well, legends and mysteries abound this place. There are records of some hikers and campers feeling an ethereal aura when trekking near or around the mountain, and native people have always held the mountain as a sacred area.

“Well, all we’ve experienced so far is a nasty smell,” Madison interrupted.

Jess giggled. “Tell me about it!”

Tom continued. “UFO proponents are said to believe a secret alien base is located deep within the mountain.”

“That’s just silly!” Madison said.

Conner returned with four cans of Budweiser. “Actually, there’s some support for that theory,” he said, sitting down next to Madison and handing them all a can. “A chap called Kenneth Arnold was flying his light aircraft near Mount Rainier, along the crest of the Cascade Range back in, I think 1947, when he spotted nine high-speed objects, which he described as, flying like a saucer would. His report made international headlines at the time.”

Tom opened his beer and took a gulp, before turning to his friend. “That’s correct; I didn’t expect you to have known that. There are also some, admittedly strange sects who believe the mountain is even an entry point into a fifth dimension. Many strange pulsating lights have been reported over the past five decades by some very credible witnesses.”

Jessica suddenly shivered. “Now you’re freaking me out,” she said, opening her beer.

Tom shifted the pan over the flames to give the beans one last blast of heat, before serving them. “In 1931, a forest fire swept across Mount Shasta, but was apparently stopped from advancing by a mysterious fog that appeared from nowhere. Interestingly the weird fog created a fire-line demarcation of charred forest, which was curved in direct correlation with the Central Time Zone line.”

“Hmm, that’s a bit freaky,” Madison said, looking at Jess.

“But, the most worrying fact for us tonight guys is that we might be sharing the forest with…Bigfoot. Many sightings have been reported on Mt. Shasta. It’s believed by many to be the hiding place home of the mythical creatures.”

“Now you’re freaking me out too Tom. Don’t be an asshole!” Jessica said.

“Now that’s BS,” Conner said. “If that was the case they’d have a real stuffed Bigfoot, Sasquatch or whatever you want to call it back down at the gun store, not a silly fake one.”

Tom shrugged. “I’m just reciting the stories,” he said, grabbing the pan from the fire and serving up four plates of hot beans for everyone. “Tuck in guys.”

The four of them ate in silence, apart from the odd crack and pop springing from the fire in front of them as the tinder burned.

“What’s the time now guys?” Madison asked, finishing a last spoonful of beans.

Tom checked his watch. “Coming up to ten,” he said.

“Blimey, that late already?! What time are we setting off hiking tomorrow?” Jess asked.

“Let’s try and get going around seven. It’s going to be a long day,” Tom said, finishing his beer.

“Well I’m not going to get much sleep after those spooky stories you told,” Jess said, glaring at Tom.

“Well you asked to hear them! Besides, they’re only stories,” he said.

“Chill out honey. When Tom pulls you in that tent and uses his British charm on you, you’ll be asleep in no time!”

“Funny,” Tom said, picking up a small twig and throwing it across the fire at Madison.

 

 

“Stop scratching my ankle with your toes please,” Jessica said, prodding Tom in the stomach.

“Hey, it was an accident babe,” Tom replied, shifting in the twin person sleeping bag.

“I can’t sleep,” Jess whispered.

Tom cuddled up and kissed Jessica on the lips. He pulled away “Hmm maybe you need a bit more action to help you sleep?” he said.

“Hmm, the only action I need is for my eyelids to close,” she whispered. “What time is it anyway?”

Tom checked his watch. “One forty,” he said.

Suddenly, from somewhere outside the tent, a low-pitched growl was audible for a brief moment, followed by a couple of thuds, and the sound of a dry twig snapping.

“What the fuck was that?” Jessica whispered, her green eyes wide open with fear.

There was another flurry of heavy footfall, followed by a loud hollow, thud…thud…thud, as if someone or, something was whacking the trunk of a large tree with a baseball bat.

“Shhh,” Tom whispered, raising his finger to his lips.

Jess stared at him, her eyes fearful.

Suddenly there was a loud pounding on the ground right outside, followed by an eerie low Neanderthal-sounding growl.

“Is it a bear?” Jess whispered, petrified.

Tom edged slowly to the end of the tent, and very quietly, started to unzip the entrance, bottom to top.

The clearing and pine forest beyond was bathed in light from a three-quarter moon, giving quite good visibility. Everything appeared normal at first, until his eyes focused on a large, dark, mass which he’d first thought was part of a huge tree at the edge of the clearing. Were the shadows from the tree branches playing tricks?

Then he saw something, a pair of eyes, white and green, eight feet or so off the ground. Tom felt his knees shake as he tried to fathom out what the object was that he was looking at. What the hell? He said to himself as he traced the outline of a large, hairy animal, which was standing upright on two legs in the shadows of the tree. Could a bear do that?

He quickly zipped the tent flap back up and quietly moved back over to Jessica. “I think it’s a bear, we…we need to stay calm, don’t move,” he whispered nervously, while reaching into the side pocket of his backpack for his hunting knife.

Suddenly, there was another growl, this time much louder, and coming from just outside the tent. The growl was followed by the sound of material ripping, tent material. And then a blood curdling scream pierced the night air.

“Fuck, that’s Madison!” Jessica screamed.

“Jesus,” Tom replied, gripping the knife tighter in his right hand. “We need to leave the tent. When we do, I want you to run. Run for the car and don’t look back! Here’s the keys, get in, lock the doors and wait for me,” he whispered.

Madison screamed again, but this time the scream was different, more muffled, and weaker.

Tom unzipped the tent flap and he and Jessica crawled out, a stench of rotting flesh greeted them as they inhaled the cool night air.

The scene in front of them defied all rationality. A huge, muscular creature, covered in matted brown hair, large ovoid head, was standing upright, its arm held out, and its hand gripping Madison around her neck. Madison’s legs were dangling beneath her, frantically kicking the air.

“Run for the car,” Tom shouted to Jess, as he crouched, frozen to the ground at the site in front of him. His brain was telling him it had to be a bear, but his eyes were looking at something different.

Jessica scrambled off in the direction of the car, her hands across her mouth, as she tried to stifle her cries.

The creature cocked its head over to one side, and stared directly at Tom, its green eyes appearing luminous under the bright moon. A sickening crack followed, as it snapped Madison’s neck with one quick jerk of its huge hairy hand.

Then, from the side of the tent, Connor appeared. He was holding something, a thick piece of tree branch, which he used to whack the creature across its neck.

No way, Tom thought, as he instinctively ran over to help his friend. He plunged the hunting knife he was holding into the creatures flank, but its hair was so thick he had no idea if the blade had gone in.

The creature twisted its upper body towards Tom and let out an ear piercing guttural scream that made Tom’s neck hair prick up in sheer terror.

The creature then yanked the knife out, grabbed Connor, and proceeded to batter his head hard against the ground. Connor didn’t stand a chance. The creature was mercilessly smashing his head and torso against the ground like he was a rag doll.

“Run…fucking run mate,” gurgled Connor, from his bloodied mouth.

The creature then twisted its upper body towards Tom and let out another ear piercing scream that sent an icy shiver racing up Tom’s spine.

Tom glanced towards the truck, which was in darkness. There was no sign of Jessica. He hoped she’d managed to get inside. He was about to run in the direction of the parked vehicle, but feared he wouldn’t make it and so he turned and sprinted as fast as he could towards the river bank, leaping into the fast flowing river as he reached the edge, without looking back.

He winced in pain as the freezing water enveloped him, the fast-moving river carrying him downstream.

To read more – download SALIENT HERE NOW!!

 

Global Warming and Climate Change

INTRODUCTION

It has been four years since I wrote The A-Z of Global Warming, so I thought about time to produce a revised and updated version. CO2 levels have continued to rise and global warming headlines still dominate the news in one form or another. In fact a new term has been coined – global weirding, which describes the world’s increasingly odd and erratic weather patterns. I have updated the chapters with the latest relevant information on the subject and added hyperlinks to source material and news items. If you have read this book before, you will hopefully get a clear picture of what has been going on over the last four years. If it is your first read, all the better, as you get the 2008 position and updated picture. At the end of each chapter, new material can be found under the heading, 2012: Update.

 

With that in mind, let’s begin The A-Z of Global Warming…

 

It’s not possible to get through the day without hearing something about global warming or climate change on the news, or reading about the subject in the papers. Indeed to most people, including myself before writing this book, the issues seemed so complex, confusing and contradictory, that it was hard to know exactly what was really going on: whether the world really was warming up, whether the situation was being exaggerated or whether the causes of global warming, if occurring, were manmade or not. It is now clear that something is indeed going on with Earth’s climate. Polar ice caps appear to be melting, or at least the pictures on the news seem to show this to be the case. There is constant mention of rising carbon dioxide levels, and there always appear to be high-powered meetings going on between nations to discuss the climate. One only recently took place in Bali in December where climate change and global warming were hotly (excuse the pun) discussed.

 

Following a viewing in the cinema in November 2006 of Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth, I felt inspired to research, read about and find out as much as I could on the subject of climate change and global warming. I bought numerous books, scanned the internet and trawled through enormous amounts of information written on the subject, from multiple sources, in order to gain as comprehensive an understanding as I could on the issues of global warming. Information for this book came from organisations such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Stern Review on The Economics of Climate Change, The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Mongabay, to name a few. After a while I conceived the idea of an A–Z on the subject, which would make it quick and easy for anyone who wanted a good knowledge of global warming with a book that got straight to the heart of this very complex topic. All the related issues of global warming and climate change have been packed into A–Z format, with each chapter dealing with a specific point on the subject. I have used the term ‘global warming’ as in my view it most accurately describes what is in fact happening to planet Earth on a global scale. However, as a result of global warming, there will of course be climatic change in different parts of the world, whether it be higher temperatures, rainfall, drought or hurricanes, or even perhaps localised cooling.

Global warming: A brief introduction

The term ‘global warming’ has been in common usage for some time and usually refers to recent warming of Earth’s atmosphere, which also implies a manmade or human influence. Each chapter of this book deals with an aspect of it, but as an introduction, here is a quick overview. Earth’s atmosphere comprises many gases: oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide (hereafter abbreviated to CO2) and water vapour, to name a few. These gases are collectively called greenhouse gases and they keep the Earth’s temperature at a comfortable 15°C. Without them Earth would be a chilly -18°C. Since pre-industrial times, usually taken to be before 1750, we know from ice-core records that CO2 levels were about 280 ppm, that’s 280 parts of CO2 per million parts of air. As industrialisation got underway humankind started to farm the land more intensely than ever before, which included deforestation for agriculture and settlements. Later – since about 1850 or so – the burning of fossil fuels for energy and transport has added considerably to greenhouse gas levels, particularly CO2. This has resulted in CO2 levels increasing to about 385 ppm, a rise of about thirty-seven per cent from pre-industrial levels – mainly as a result of burning fossil fuels. How do we know this? Well, data from ice-core records that go back at least 650,000 years now show us that CO2 levels have fluctuated naturally during this time between 280 and 300 ppm. CO2 levels have also been measured accurately from the top of Mauna Loa Volcano in Hawaii since 1958, and results show an increase in CO2 levels from 315 ppm to 380 ppm since that time. Therefore CO2 is now at eighty ppm more than it has been for at least 650,000 years of Earth’s history. It is a known scientific fact that higher levels of greenhouse gases will lead to higher temperatures, which appears to be happening now. The world has warmed by an average of 0.74 degrees Celsius during the last 100 years or so. As a result of this warming, polar ice has started to decrease and melt, and so have Earth’s land-based glaciers. This in turn is causing sea levels to rise, which is putting low-lying islands at risk of flooding or total submersion, and will eventually threaten more and more of the world’s coastal cities and regions. Things may get worse, however, because once Earth’s atmosphere starts to warm, the warming itself may cause further positive feedback mechanisms to kick in. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour, which is itself a powerful greenhouse gas. This will in turn cause further warming, and so on. Melting ice results in more sunlight absorbed by the surrounding ‘darker’ water and land, and that results in further warming, and more melting ice. Methane deposits currently held in a frozen but stable state under the sea and under the permafrost may be released as the oceans warm and permafrost melts, which will cause further warming as methane is a potent greenhouse gas etc., etc.

 

That is global warming in a nutshell, but is humankind really to blame? Read this book, and make up your own mind. I hope to explain everything in an uncomplicated way, and will look at all the issues in much more detail, starting with the involvement of the Amazon rainforest, biofuels, CO2 and so on, with each chapter having relevance to the phenomenon of global warming. Earth’s historical climate is looked at, the sun’s role, the Kyoto Agreement is explained, and the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a unique panel comprising many thousands of researchers and scientists from all over the world, are revealed. Towards the end of the book, the consequences of global warming are looked at in terms of the weather, diseases, extinction, and importantly what the world and every human being on it can do to try and alleviate the crisis that planet Earth and all of us are facing. I hope from reading this book you will learn something and perhaps get concerned enough to do something about the problem…

A – AMAZON

 We start our A–Z journey on global warming with the Amazon rainforest, which has an incredibly important role to play in maintaining balance in the Earth’s climate, in ways that are only just being understood. The Amazon is inextricably linked to the issue of global warming and therefore a very good place to start our inquiry into what may be the biggest threat to our existence on this planet.

Amazon facts

The Amazon river basin contains the largest rainforest on Earth and covers approximately forty per cent of the South American continent. The rainforest is located in eight countries. Brazil has sixty per cent, with Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana between them containing the rest. The Amazon forest is a natural reservoir of genetic diversity, containing the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest that exists. The Amazon contains an amazing thirty per cent of Earth’s species. One square kilometre can sustain about 90,000 tons of living plants! It’s also amazing to consider that one in five of all the birds in the world make the rainforest their home. The Amazon basin is drained by the Amazon River, the world’s second longest after the Nile. The river is essentially the lifeline of the forest. It is the most voluminous on Earth and its daily freshwater discharge into the Atlantic is enough to supply New York City’s freshwater needs for nine years!1 New measurements recently taken by scientists, however, suggest that the Amazon may actually be the longest river in the world. No doubt this will be confirmed if true, at some point in the future!

 

A few thousand years ago tropical rainforests covered as much as twelve per cent of the Earth’s land surface, but today the figure is below five per cent. The largest stretch of rainforest can be found in the Amazon river basin, over half of which is situated in Brazil.2

 

 

Why is the Amazon so important in the context of global warming?

 

The rainforest acts as a major store of carbon and produces enormous amounts of oxygen. The Amazon has been referred to as ‘the lungs of the Earth’ because of its affect on the climate. The way this is achieved is of course through photosynthesis, the process by which green plants and trees use the energy from sunlight to produce food by taking CO2 from the air and water and converting it to carbon. The by-product of this is oxygen. The Amazon therefore helps recycle CO2 by turning it into oxygen, and it is estimated that the Amazon produces about twenty per cent of this essential gas for Earth’s atmosphere.

 

Trees, plants and CO2

 

Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have been measured since 1958, from a monitoring station located on Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. They show sharp annual increases and decreases in CO2 levels, similar to the tooth on a saw. The readings seem to mimic a breath of air being taken in and out, almost as if the Earth is breathing. They correspond to the amount of vegetation on the

planet (most of which is in the northern hemisphere, as the landmass there is greater), taking in CO2, and giving out oxygen. During summer in the northern hemisphere, when the Earth is tilted towards the sun, Earth’s vegetation is able to photosynthesise, resulting in an uptake of CO2, causing worldwide CO2 levels to drop. In winter in the northern hemisphere, when Earth’s axis is tilted away from the sun, the opposite happens, causing CO2 levels to rise again.

 

When one becomes aware of the correlation between the Earth’s vegetation and CO2 levels, it is easy to understand why the Amazon, and rainforests in general, are such an important part of Earth’s ecosystem. The problem is, however, that although the measurements taken at the volcano in Hawaii show sharp up and down annual readings, the measurements also show a simultaneous steady upward trend in CO2 levels. The importance of CO2 in relation to global warming will be a recurring theme throughout this book, and will be looked at further in Chapter C.

 

What has been happening in the Amazon?

 

A worrying trend is the Amazon having experienced two consecutive years of drought, in 2005 and 2006. The drought in 2005, which left rivers dry, stranded thousands of villagers, and put regional commerce at a standstill, was the worst on record. A second year of drought is of great concern to researchers studying the Amazon ecosystem. Field studies by the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Research Centre in the USA, suggest that Amazon forest ecosystems may not withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without starting to break down. Severe drought weakens forest trees and dries leaf litter leaving forests susceptible to land-clearing fires set during the July-October period each year. According to the Woods Hole Research Centre, it also puts forest ecosystems at risk of shifting into a savannah-like state.3

 

A recent experiment carried out by a team of researchers suspended 5,600 large plastic panels between 1 and 4 metres (3.2– 13.1 feet) above the ground to mimic severe drought conditions, where as much as eighty per cent of a one-hectare plot is deprived of eighty per cent of rainfall. Measuring rainfall, soil moisture, leaf and canopy characteristics over time, it was found that after

four years the rainforest trees began to die while leaf litter dried and became tinder for wild fires.4

 

Another factor is the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event, a climatic phenomenon that influences much of the climate in the region, particularly Northeast Brazil, and the northern Amazon. ENSO brings with it dry conditions in the above areas, and manmade climate change is thought to increase this naturally occurring phenomenon in the future. ENSO is further looked at

in Chapter W.

 

Some climate models have suggested that temperatures in the Amazon may increase by 2 to 3°C (3.6–5.4°F) by the year 2050, together with a decrease in rainfall during the dry period. If the drought continues, based on the results of the aforementioned experiment, 2007/8 could be a turning point for the forest, which may mean that a tipping point will be reached where the forest will start to die, with catastrophic consequences for Earth’s climate.

 

If this trend continues, according to the WWF, between thirty and sixty per cent of the Amazon rainforest could become dry savannah, rendering the forest a source of CO2 instead of a sink/ store of it, which it currently is. There are ways in which we can all help try and sustain this vast and ecologically important expanse of rainforest, and these will be discussed in Chapter Y.

 

The Amazon will be considered further in Chapter D, where the problem of deforestation is looked at.

 

We will now consider the importance of biofuels as an alternative source of fuel, and how biofuels may help in the fight against global warming. Ironically, this is also causing problems for the Amazon and other rainforests, as areas of forest are cleared for the planting of crops for biofuel production.

AMAZON: UPDATE.

So, what’s been happening in the Amazon over the last four years? The “one-in-100” year drought that struck the Amazon in 2005 returned in 2010, this time possibly releasing into the atmosphere more than the 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide than the 2005 drought did. Experts fear that if such extreme droughts become more frequent – which appears to be the case – the Amazon may cease to provide a natural buffer to man-made carbon emissions.

Dr Simon Lewis, from the University of Leeds reported in the Journal of Science, “Having two events of this magnitude in such close succession is extremely unusual, but unfortunately consistent with those climate models that project a grim future for Amazonia.” – Mongabay.

Global climate simulations suggest that further droughts, such as the ones in 2005 and 2010 could eventually turn the Amazon from a carbon sink to a carbon emitter. Researches now fear that the apparent increase of severe droughts – caused by a combination of climate change, fragmentation and deforestation – could cause the collapse of the Amazon rainforest ecosystem. The UK’s Guardian newspaper covered the story in some detail, read it, here and here.

 

A new study on its way to being published shows that the Amazon rainforest suffered greatly from last year’s drought. Employing satellite data and supercomputing technology, researchers have found that the Amazon was likely hit harder by 2010’s drought than a recent severe drought from 2005. The droughts have supported predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) that climate change, among other impacts, could push portions of the Amazon to grasslands, devastating the world’s greatest rainforest. “The greenness levels of Amazonian vegetation—a measure of its health—decreased dramatically over an area more than three and one-half times the size of Texas and did not recover to normal levels, even after the drought ended in late October 2010,” explains the study’s lead author Liang Xu of Boston University – Mongabay.

 

According to Mongabay, scientists, using climate simulation models at the UK’s Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research, have forecast significant “die-back” of the Amazon rainforest by mid-century and a virtual collapse of the ecosystem by 2100. So, it would seem that if the current trend continues, the future of Earth’s largest rainforest looks bleak.

Click on the following photograph from the National Geographic website, taken in November 2010, which shows the Negro River, a tributary of the Amazon coming to an abrupt end.

The Amazon is further looked at in chapter D in terms of deforestation.

Key points

 

➢ The Amazon rainforest contains about thirty per cent of Earth’s species.

➢ World rainforest cover has over thousands of years decreased from twelve per cent to five per cent.

➢ The Amazon helps to recycle CO2, a gas which contributes to global warming and while doing so produces about twenty per cent of Earth’s oxygen.

➢ CO2 levels rise and fall with the seasons. There is greater landmass and hence vegetation in the northern hemisphere, which means that when Earth is tilted towards the sun during northern summertime, CO2 levels drop as a result of there being greater uptake of CO2 from photosynthesis. During the winter, the opposite happens and CO2 levels rise again.

Interested to learn more or to read any of my ecological thrillers? Please visit my AMAZON AUTHOR author page to find out more.

Next blog, find out about The A-Z of Global Warming, letter B and Biofuels – Thanks for reading.

sALIENTt – new sci-fi action thriller – out 30th November 2017

Four Campers Experience the Unimaginable…
A Signal From Deep Space is Detected…
NASA and SETI Scramble for Answers…
But What They Discover…Is Terrifying.

Impact Point

impact-point

Siberia 1908: A massive explosion occurs above the Tunguska region – known as The Tunguska Event – releasing the equivalent energy of 185 Hiroshima nuclear bombs. An asteroid impact, or comet fragment is thought to have been the cause. It happened then, and it will happen again…

MYSTERIOUS WHALE DEATHS…

Wales; UK – When a blue whale gets washed ashore and dies in front of Robert Spire on his local beach, the UK’s Department of the Environment and local population are ill prepared. When a second whale washes up dead on Myrtle Beach on the opposite side of the Atlantic, the scientific community realizes it has a mystery on its hands and questions need answering.

A QUEST FOR METEORITE FRAGMENTS…

Environmental lawyer Robert Spire; newly recruited to the UK’s Global Environmental Command Unit – GLENCOM, flies over to South Carolina to investigate. Whilst there, he teams up with marine biologist Dr Sally Rivea, also assigned to the case. Meanwhile in Nevada, USA, ex-marine Travis Dexter is on the run after he discovers the body of his employer – philanthropist Julian Smithies – murdered in his home. The only object missing; a recently discovered, rare and valuable space meteorite, its origin unknown.

A FUTURE GLOBAL CATACLYSM…

On the island of Exuma In the Bahamas, four sport divers make a startling discovery at the bottom of Mystery Cave blue hole. Sixty miles offshore in the Caribbean Sea, drilling on the Proteus oil rig turns to disaster as the drill-bit snaps as it strikes something hard on the ocean floor. Dr Rivea, at a loss to explain the high levels of the mineral olivine discovered in the whale’s tissue samples, accompanies Spire to the Caribbean in search of answers, but when they get there, the mystery only deepens as they unearth a conspiracy with cataclysmic consequences…

Robert Spire is propelled into a fast paced action-adventure thriller as he travels from Wales, London, over to Nevada, Arizona and the Bahamas in search of the mysterious deaths of two blue whales. All the clues point to an historical space asteroid impact, but nothing can prepare Spire, or the world, for the cataclysm that is about to unfold. Time seems to be ticking…towards potential extinction…

Impact Point is a fast paced action thriller covering the following themes;

* Extinction
* Space
* Terrorism
* Sea adventure
* Asteroids/comets/meteorites
* Conspiracy
* Cataclysm
* Disaster

Tipping Point

bookdesign434

Tipping Point: There will be no return…

1903: The Arctic’s fabled Northwest Passage is navigated for the first time. 2012: An eminent climatologist is found dead in his London apartment. For Robert Spire, an environmental lawyer, what seems like a standard executor’s appointment in his client’s will, turns out to be anything but, as he is thrust into an international conspiracy involving a terrorist plan to push the Arctic to its tipping point, and the world to disaster…

TIPPING POINT is a fast-paced action conspiracy thriller which will keep you turning the pages until the very end.

TWO DEAD CLIMATOLOGISTS…

When eminent climatologist Dr Dale Stanton – in the process of studying the Atlantic Ocean’s Thermohaline Circulation – is found dead in his London apartment, environmental lawyer, Robert Spire, is given the task to administer a large legacy left by him to global warming organisations. The job should have been straightforward, until a second climatologist, Dr Jack Bannister drops dead on the other side of the Atlantic.

AN INTERNATIONAL CONSPIRACY

Spire’s client – suspicious of her son’s death – asks him to travel to San Francisco to investigate Dr Jack Bannister’s death. Whilst there, Spire learns of a plan to seed the Arctic Ocean with an experimental substance – the aim, to prevent, or at least slow the Arctic’s melting ice. A female Russian assassin is tracking Spire’s every move however, leaving no doubt that someone has other plans for the region, and wants the climatologists dead at all costs.

A LOOMING ECOLOGICAL DISASTER

As evidence of increased glacial melt in Greenland and reduction in the Arctic ice mounts, Spire becomes determined to join the joint US/French expedition to seed the Arctic. He soon finds however, that the lives of all on board are in peril as he uncovers a conspiracy which threatens to push the Arctic to its tipping point and the Earth to disaster…

TIPPING POINT is a Climate-Fiction themed Action-thriller, set in London, Paris, San Francisco and along the Northwest Passage all the way to the Arctic…

Themes covered in the book;

* Climate change
* Conspiracy
* Arctic
* Action and adventure
* Mystery
* Assassin
* Terrorism

Melt Zone

melt-zone-cover-9

A mysterious structure is found buried beneath the Antarctic ice. Undiscovered for decades…It should have remained that way.

A team of climatologists are sent on a routine expedition to Antarctica to investigate a rapidly melting glacier, where they make a startling discovery… In Europe, a secret Nazi document surfaces which points to a historical government secret, and which appears connected to events unfolding in Antarctica… Robert Spire, tasked to hunt for the secret document, soon becomes the hunted, as he is chased across Europe in this fast paced action thriller. Spire soon discovers that sinister forces are at work. Forces that will do all they can to protect the secret that lies buried beneath the Antarctic ice…

In 1938, the German New Swabia Expedition left Hamburg for Antarctica aboard the MS Schwabenland. The secret expedition arrived at the Princess Martha Coast, in an area which had been claimed by Norway as Dronning Maud Land, and began charting the region…75 years later, satellite photographs discover something very odd occurring in Eastern Antarctica…

Rapid Antarctic Ice Melt…

Just before Europe’s Envisat satellite malfunctions, it photographs a mysterious melt zone during a fly-over of Eastern Antarctica. After analyzing the photographs, the UKs GLENCOM – Global Environmental Command – Unit, sends three of its climatologists to investigate, but as they search the site, a vast crevasse opens in the ice, swallowing them up. They survive the fall, but make a startling and lethal discovery.

A Hunt Across Europe…

GLENCOM agent and environmental lawyer, Robert Spire, is tasked to investigate a Cologne-based company whose origins appear linked to the events unfolding in Antarctica. As Spire suspects a possible government conspiracy, things take a sinister turn, as clues lead him to the discovery of a 70 year-old Nazi document and an Antarctic mystery that may have lasted for 70 years.

A Decades-old Nazi Myth…

With Spire now missing, and a second search and rescue operation to the melt zone going disastrously wrong, GLENCOM organise a third expedition to the region, this time with the assistance of cryo-scientist and glaciologist, Irina Loptinova. If Spire makes it back to England alive, he will face his most daunting challenge yet, an expedition to the melt zone, to discover the mystery that lies buried beneath the Antarctic ice.

Melt Zone is a faced paced thriller, which covers the following themes;

* Antarctica
* Conspiracy
* Exploration
* Nazi mythology
* UFOs
* Assassin
* Action adventure chase thriller

Cataclysm of the Ancients

Cataclysm of the Ancients cover

An ancient artifact from the past…will unleash havoc in the future.

From ancient Greece to ancient Egypt and the war-torn deserts of Syria, Robert Spire is thrust into a fast paced mythological mystery which spans two thousand years. The hunt is on for ancient clues that must be solved…the countdown to the Cataclysm of the Ancients has begun…

226 BC: Fall of the Colossus of Rhodes.

The mighty statue of the Greek Titan Helios stood proudly in the port of the ancient city of Rhodes, Greece. Built to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over the ruler of Cyprus in 305 B.C., it is one of the tallest statues of the ancient world, until it is destroyed after only 56 years.

Legend suggests it was destroyed by an earthquake, but legends can be wrong…

2015 AD: A Stolen C.I.A Document…

Langley Virginia: When CIA agent, Dr Vincent Kramer, is found brutally murdered in the facility’s parking lot, it becomes apparent that his death is linked to a missing document that was stored in the agency’s secret vault – A document detailing clandestine remote viewing experiments on the Great Sphinx in Egypt.

Yesterday: An Explosion Rocks the Sphinx…

Soon after the theft, an explosion damages the Sphinx, revealing a secret chamber within the ancient monolith. Upon hearing the news, the UK’s GLENCOM agency, keen to assist the Egyptian Government with the suspected act of terrorism upon one of its greatest historical monuments, sends their agent, ex-environmental lawyer, Robert Spire, together with archaeologist and expert in Egyptian and Greek mythology, Professor Casey Carr to Cairo to investigate…

An Ancient Cataclysm Unleashed…

After persuading Egyptian authorities to let them inspect the newly discovered chamber, Spire and Casey make a remarkable discovery, one which leads the pair on a hunt for the remains of one of the lost Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the legendary Colossus of Rhodes. Someone else is also hunting for the lost pieces of the ancient statue however. A group who believe that if they discover the final resting place of the colossus, they will also discover a secret more powerful than the Gods themselves, and when they do, they will unleash a cataclysm upon the modern world, the likes of which has never been seen before.

As Spire realises the seriousness of the deteriorating situation, he requests help from his old trusted friend, retired U.S. Marine, Travis Dexter. But what has been discovered – an ancient technology, or modern-day weapon? With the clock ticking to an unknown, but almost certain cataclysmic event, the pair race against time to unravel the ancient clues before it’s too late…

Cataclysm is a fast paced thriller covering the following themes;

* Ancient Egypt
* Greek mythology
* Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
* Conspiracies
* Ancient aliens
* Ancient guardians
* Ancient technology
* Sphinx and Pyramids
* Science fiction adventure thriller
* Espionage
* Terrorism

Red Mist

 

parisians-b-1Red Mist – my new action conspiracy terrorism thriller is coming out in January 2017. Be sure to reserve your copy from December!

The new cold war is about to heat up…

London lawyer Jack West has a great job, is married with a beautiful daughter; but his personal life isn’t great, and it’s about to get a whole lot worse…

Mysterious Encounter

When Jack meets a beautiful and seductive stranger, Amber, in his local bar one lunchtime he manages to resist temptation, until she insists he walk her home after two men enter the bar and scare the hell out of her. Jack accompanies Amber back to her apartment, but one thing soon leads to another and he finds himself slipping out of control, that is, until a pounding on the apartment door brings him to his senses. Amber goes to answer the door, but five seconds later she has been shot and is dying in his arms, assassinated by the men from the bar, who are now trying to enter her apartment. Amber’s last words to Jack are; “Run…Take my bag and run!”

A chase across London

With only seconds to think, Jack grabs Amber’s bag and runs for the fire escape, dodging a hail of bullets and running for his life as he is chased across London. But who are the crazed assassins and what do they want? With only the contents of Amber’s handbag in his possession, Jack sets about trying to piece together the puzzle, but what he discovers only adds to the mystery. Whilst trying to keep the entire incident secret from his wife, he calls a contact from Amber’s diary, her Moroccan friend Laila, and arranges to meet her. It soon becomes evident that the men hunting Jack down are Russians. But what are they really after, and can Jack solve the unfolding mystery before he’s implicated in Amber’s murder?

Russian Conspiracy

As things go from bad to worse for Jack and Laila, the only clue they have leads them over to Casablanca, Morocco, but what they discover only deepens the conspiracy surrounding Amber’s death and her connection with the Russian assassins. With the Russian President flying over to the UK for a prisoner swap, and an international crisis brewing, Jack and Laila return to the UK to solve the mystery, but find themselves in a race against time to prevent total global disaster.

 

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