Climate: A bigger picture

Summaries of newsworthy papers include Climate change: Don’t blame the weatherman, Pressure in the Amazon, Tectonics: Rift of difference, Materials: Graphene oxide ‘paper’ is super strong and Quantum physics: Entangling atom pairs


This press release is copyright Nature.
VOL.448 NO.7152 DATED 26 JULY 2007

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Climate: A bigger picture

Climate change: Don’t blame the weatherman

Commentary: Pressure in the Amazon

Tectonics: Rift of difference

Materials: Graphene oxide ‘paper’ is super strong

Quantum physics: Entangling atom pairs

· Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Climate: A bigger picture (AOP)

DOI: 10.1038/nature06059

Current climate–carbon cycle models have overlooked atmospheric chemistry as a factor that looks set to worsen global warming by the end of this century, meteorologists report. By 2100, levels of ozone will have risen high enough to stunt the overall worldwide growth of plants, reducing their effectiveness as a 'carbon sink' to mop up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Unlike high-altitude ozone, which shields us from harmful ultraviolet rays, ground-level ozone is a toxin that stunts plant growth. And levels of ozone are rising in many areas of the world through industrial emissions, point out researchers led by Stephen Sitch.

The issue is complex, however, the authors explain in this week's Nature. Rising carbon dioxide levels, which are also expected to continue to climb during this century, actually buffer the effect of ozone because high levels of the gas cause plants to shut down the pores through which ozone can penetrate their leaves. Sitch and his colleagues' analysis is the first to take account of this subtle interplay — they find a significant suppression of the land carbon sink as increases in ozone negatively affect plant productivity. In consequence, more carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere. The resulting indirect radiative forcing effect of ozone could contribute more to global warming than the direct radiative effect of tropospheric ozone increases.


Stephen Sitch (MET Office Hadley Centre, Wallingford, UK)

Tel: +44 1491 692 537; E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Climate change: Don’t blame the weatherman (pp 461-465)

Human activity has influenced the world’s latitudinal rainfall pattern over the twentieth century, a study in this week’s Nature suggests. These changes may have already had significant effects on ecosystems, agriculture and human health in rainfall-sensitive regions, such as parts of Africa.

Francis W. Zwiers and colleagues compared observed changes in land precipitation averaged over latitudinal bands with changes simulated by climate models. Over the twentieth century, human-induced changes have contributed to increased rainfall in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes and in the Southern Hemisphere deep tropics and subtropics, and to the decreased rainfall in the Northern Hemisphere tropics and subtropics.

Human influence on climate has been detected in a number of climate variables, including surface air temperature, sea level pressure, free atmospheric temperature and ocean temperature. Climate models have suggested that human activity has also caused changes in the latitudinal distribution of precipitation across the globe, but this study is the first, to our knowledge, to detect such an effect.


Francis W. Zwiers (Environment Canada, Toronto, Canada)

Please contact:

Heather Mackey (Science Liaison, Environment Canada, Toronto, Canada)

Tel: +1 416 739 4766; E-mail: [email protected]

Commentary: Pressure in the Amazon

As deforestation continues in the Amazon, William Laurance and Regina Luizão ask, in Nature this week, what is the best way to save large-scale conservation projects in the face of increased threat?

The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP) has, since the 1970s, coordinated research into how fragmented habitats affect tropical wildlife. It also has a key role in education in the region – providing free environmental training courses for students, park managers and political leaders. Its days could be numbered, though, if urban sprawl and forest colonization continue, and if the logging related to the Manaus–Venezuela highway isn’t slowed.

Laurance and Luizão argue that in order to win these battles, the BDFFP should focus on the alarming and irrevocable land-use decisions being taken in central Amazonia. Publicity is also key; Brazilian media can help to highlight the strategic importance of this region for a crucial conservation corridor in the Amazon and the disappointing response from federal officials. As the burning season gets underway this month, they conclude that time is of the essence if this important region, and the unique study area it includes, is to be saved.


William Laurance (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Panama)

Tel: +507 212 8252; E-mail: [email protected]

[3] Tectonics: Rift of difference (pp 466-469)

Large differences in rifting style and volcanic activity occur in the Gulf of California, according to the results of a seismic experiment reported in this week’s Nature. The survey is the first to show crustal-scale images across multiple segments of a single, active rift and provides new insight into the process of rifting — where continents rupture apart and form new ocean basins. These results call into question our understanding of the underlying cause for such differences in rifting and volcanic activity.

The Gulf of California began rifting some 12–15 million years ago, tearing away the Baja California peninsula from the North American continent. The spreading segments and faults that run in between divide the Pacific plate to the west from the North American plate to the east. Daniel Lizarralde and colleagues used a combination of land and ocean-bottom seismometers to reveal variations in crustal structure across the gulf. The team observed considerable differences in the style of rifting over short distances — a surprising result, considering that the plate-separation rate and crustal structure are relatively constant.

Unpredicted changes in magmatic activity in continental rifts are commonly attributed to variations in mantle temperature, but such a thermal range would normally occur over larger length scales. Instead, the authors conclude that the differences might be controlled by variability in the intrinsic ability of the underlying mantle to produce melt, inherited from the pre-rift tectonics of the region, and that this may be common along many rifted margins.


Daniel Lizarralde (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA, USA)

Tel: +1 508 289 2942; E-mail: [email protected]

[4] Materials: Graphene oxide ‘paper’ is super strong (pp 457-460)

A new carbon nanocomposite paper-like material is stronger, stiffer and more flexible than many carbon-nanotube-based alternatives. The discovery, reported in this week’s Nature, could find application in chemical filters, molecular storage devices and supercapacitors.

The graphene oxide membrane, developed by Rodney S. Ruoff and colleagues, is based on nanoscale graphene oxide sheets that are interlocked and tiled together in a near-parallel fashion. It can be readily prepared from an inexpensive starting material, such as graphite, and outperforms so-called carbon-nanotube-based ‘bucky paper’ on several counts. The surfaces of the layered sheets should also lend themselves to chemical modification, widening the product's potential range of uses.


Rodney S. Ruoff (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA)
Tel: +1 847 467 6596; E-mail: [email protected]

[5] Quantum physics: Entangling atom pairs (pp 452-456; N&V)

Physicists have controllably entangled pairs of isolated atoms, a feat that could prove useful in quantum information processing devices of the future.

Patricia J. Lee and colleagues trapped ultracold rubidium atoms in the wells of an optical lattice (a device created by criss-crossing laser beams). By modifying the laser beams, the team forced two atoms to overlap and found that they started to exchange spin and become entangled — their properties became inextricably linked, regardless of physical position.


Patricia J. Lee (National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Gaithersburg, MD, USA)
Tel: +1 301 975 8576; E-mail: [email protected]

Johannes H. Denschlag (Universität Innsbruck, Austria) N&V author
Tel: +43 512 507 6340; E-mail: [email protected]


[6] Inflammatory bowel diseases as models for multigenic and environment interaction in disease pathogenesis (pp 427-434)

[7] A lipid-based model for the creation of an escape hatch from the endoplasmic reticulum (pp 435-438)

[8] Functional diversification of closely related ARF-GEFs in protein secretion and recycling (pp 488-492)

[9] An ARF-GEF acting at the Golgi and in selective endocytosis in polarized plant cells (pp 493-496)


***These papers will be published electronically on Nature's website on 25 July at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included them on this release to avoid multiple mailings they will not appear in print on 26 July, but at a later date.***

[10] A transglutaminase homologue as a condensation catalyst in antibiotic assembly lines

DOI: 10.1038/nature06068

[11] Small self-RNA generated by RNase L amplifies antiviral innate immunity

DOI: 10.1038/nature06042

[12] A gastrin-releasing peptide receptor mediates the itch sensation in the spinal cord

DOI: 10.1038/nature06029


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. The listing may be for an author's main affiliation, or for a place where they are working temporarily. Please see the PDF of the paper for full details.


Toronto: 2


Heidelberg: 8

Koln: 8

Tubingen: 8


Florence: 5


Tsukuba: 2


Ensenada: 3


Valencia: 8


Exeter: 1

Norwich: 2

Oxford: 9

Reading: 2

Sunbury-on-Thames: 3

Wallingford: 1



Flagstaff: 3


Berkeley: 2

La Jolla: 3, 8


Boulder: 2


Evanston: 4


Gaithersburg: 5


Boston: 6, 10

Cambridge: 7

Woods Hole: 3


Plymouth: 5


St Louis: 12

New Mexico

Socorro: 3

North Carolina

Durham: 2


Cleveland: 11


Seattle: 11


Laramie: 3


For North America and Canada

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington

Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail: [email protected]

For Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan

Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo

Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail: [email protected]

For the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above

Helen Jamison, Nature London

Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail [email protected]

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Published: 25 Jul 2007

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