In coming to know hundreds of oceanographers, atmospheric scientists, glaciologists and other climate specialists over the last few years, I am continually struck by the humor, warmth, creativity, smarts, and humanity of the people working in these fields.
Most folks don’t get to meet a lot of full time scientists in their day-to-day lives, and a new video series seeks to remedy that.
“More than Scientists” is a new social media project that seeks to bring a human face to the people involved in this very special work, and they’re producing a series of really well done videos that I think should get a wide audience.
Science – The disciplines are as diverse as life on earth. A problem of global scale requires everyone: from physicists to physicians, marine biologists to atmospheric chemists, ice to fire ecologists, from the soil to the upper atmosphere, it takes us all.
We are scientists. We span the fields of scientific inquiry, span the political spectrum, and the nation. We are dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, understanding. We represent the more than 97% of scientists who believe climate change is happening, that it is due to our actions and that it is within our power to keep it from being devastating.
But we aren’t just scientists inside labs and academia. We are people like you, with hopes and dreams and loved ones. We are mothers, fathers, farmers, fishermen, hikers, hunters, …
… And we’re concerned.
We are more than scientists.
It will take more than science.
It will take us all, working together, for a better future.
The effort, which is privately funded and led by climate activist Eric Michelman, seeks to forge a better connection between scientists and the general public who hear the results of their work.
March 30, 2015
More from my wide ranging conversation with Mike Mann, on the recent indications of a slowdown in the North Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current.
Here, we discuss the very important role that the “ocean conveyor belt” provides in supplying oxygen and nutrients to deep levels of the ocean, worldwide. A slowdown, or shutdown, in this circulation will have global impacts, potentially for millennia.
Villagers of the high desert of Ladakh in India’s Jammu and Kashmir states used to harvest bountiful crops of barley, wheat, fruits, and vegetables in summer.
But for years the streams have run dry in spring, just when farmers needed water to sow seeds. They had water when it wasn’t needed during the rest of the year, such as in winter, when Ladakhis let water gush from taps to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.
Villagers blame climate change for causing glaciers to shrink.
To resolve the water-shortage problem, Sonam Wangchuk, a mechanical engineer, and his team of volunteers are building a gigantic vertical block of ice in Phyang, nine miles from Leh, the capital of Ladakh. When spring comes and the artificial glacier melts, farmers will have flowing water.
The ingenious method stores water without the need for concrete water storage tanks or dams. While it won’t stop glaciers from shrinking, it could help people adapt to a warming world.
Last winter, Wangchuk built a 6-meter prototype on a fully exposed riverbank to test his idea. It stored 150,000 liters of water at 3,170 meters, the lowest altitude in Leh valley. This, he said, proved ice pyramids can be built anywhere in the region.
The frozen cone resembles Buddhist mud stupas, and Wangchuk was quick to come up with a name for them: ice stupa. When the prototype lasted until mid-May, he was encouraged to attempt a 30-meter pyramid of ice this winter.
But the cost of piping water from the Phyang stream, 1.5 miles away, was an exorbitant $100,000. Unperturbed, he raised the money on the crowd-funding platform Indiegogo and work began on January 21.
March 27, 2015
In the latest indication that climate change is going to affect us in strange and horrible ways, University of Florida entomologists have documented how unusual weather patterns appear to be causing the swarming seasons of the two species — the Asian and Formosan termites — to overlap for the first time, giving them an opportunity to meet and mate. (In fact, they say, male Asian termites seem to prefer Formosan females over their own species, further increasing the rate at which this is happening.)
Their study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, documents how this phenomenon is facilitating the development of brand-new hybrid colonies, capable of developing twice as fast as their parent species. The scientists aren’t sure yet whether the super termite itself can reproduce, which would bring even more problems — like the potential for the new species to itself invade other areas beyond Florida. But they’re worried either way.
“Because a termite colony can live up to 20 years with millions of individuals, the damaging potential of a hybrid colony remains a serious threat to homeowners even if the hybrid colony does not produce fertile winged termites,” author Nan-Yao Su explained in a statement. Or, as the study puts it, “a kick from a mule is as good as a kick from a donkey.”
And it may be a harsh kick indeed. Asian and Formosan termites already cost as much as $40 billion in damage each year, globally. And that’s nothing, the authors say, compared to what’s coming for Florida: they predict Florida will experience “dramatically increased damage to structures in the near future.”
The study authors point to the unusually warm winters of 2013 and 2014 as reason for the overlap of mating seasons between the two species.
There is also mounting evidence that warming environments resulting from climate change can be an important factor contributing to such hybridization, either by altering the species distribution, or temporally shifting the mating season of species.
While the hybridization of non-native species with native species has been documented in a wide range of organisms, including plants, amphibians, fishes, mammals and insects, few cases of hybridization involving two invasive species in non-native areas have been described. One such case is the hybridization of two invasive fire ant species Solenopsis invicta × S. richteri where a hybrid zone is now fully established in the Southern United States.
To a lesser extent, gene introgression from the Africanized honey bee to European honey bee populations Apis mellifera subspecies has become a problem for human activity in North and South America.
March 26, 2015
There will be a new video, out next week, I hope, that will add a little to this. Yet another indicator that Antarctica, which scientists hoped would be static this century – is on the move.
Antarctica is pretty much covered with glaciers. Glaciers are dynamic entities that, unless they are in full melt, tend to grow near their thickest parts (that’s why those are the thickest parts) and mush outwards towards the edges, where the liminal areas either melt (usually seasonally) in situ or drop off into the sea.
Antarctic’s glaciers are surrounded by a number of floating ice shelves. The ice shelves are really the distal reaches of the moving glaciers floating over the ocean. This is one of the places, probably the place at present, where melting accelerated by human caused greenhouse gas pollution occurs. The ice shelves are fixed in place along their margins (they typically cover linear fjord like valleys) and at a grounding point underneath the shelf some distance form the ice margin but under sea level.
The collapse or disintegration of an ice shelf is thought to lead to the more rapid movement of the corresponding glacial mass towards the sea, and increased melting. This is the big problem right now with estimating the rate of glacial melting in the Antarctic. This is not a steady and regular process, as rapid disintegration of an ice shelf is possible. Most likely, Antarctic glacial melting over the coming decades will involve occasional catastrophic of an ice shelf followed by more rapid glacial melting at that point.
Unfortunately, the ice shelves are generally becoming more vulnerable to this sort of process, a new study just out in Science shows. From the abstract:
The floating ice shelves surrounding the Antarctic Ice Sheet restrain the grounded ice-sheet flow. Thinning of an ice shelf reduces this effect, leading to an increase in ice discharge to the ocean. Using eighteen years of continuous satellite radar altimeter observations we have computed decadal-scale changes in ice-shelf thickness around the Antarctic continent. Overall, average ice-shelf volume change accelerated from negligible loss at 25 ± 64 km3 per year for 1994-2003 to rapid loss of 310 ± 74 km3 per year for 2003-2012. West Antarctic losses increased by 70% in the last decade, and earlier volume gain by East Antarctic ice shelves ceased. In the Amundsen and Bellingshausen regions, some ice shelves have lost up to 18% of their thickness in less than two decades.
Pretty incredible display. Really looks like an artillery barrage.
March 26, 2015
“…the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” – Carl Sagan
This is going rather well.
One of my projects this year is to amplify as much as possible the true face of climate denial – starting with Strom,..ahem..James Inhofe, who is to climate as Strom Thurmond was to civil rights. Now, another plum has fallen into my lap, with Senator Ted Cruz inserting himself prominently as yet another ideal face for the climate denial movement.
Not only is the Senator from Texas a demonstrated race baiter, and a self promoting, Dr. Suess reading bomb thrower – he has shown himself to be consistently and increasingly unpopular even among his own party, and the right wing media itself.
So the Ted Cruz demographic tracks pretty close to the climate denial demographic, on the extreme right wing fringes of American politics – right where I think it should be in people’s minds.
So far so good.
Now the gentleman from Texas has gone so far as to compare himself to Galileo.
Here is the relevant portion of the Texas Tribune interview in which Cruz makes the bizarre claim.. so jammed with climate denial nonsense that one hardly knows where to begin. Read the rest of this entry »