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 »
March 26, 2015
Strangely cropped video,but has not yet been blocked by Viacom, so enjoy.
Jon Stewart on the “sea no evil” cult in Florida.
March 26, 2015
Michael Mann, along with lead author Stefan Rahmstorf, Glaciologist Jason Box, and others, have published new findings on a slowdown in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). If you have not seen the post on that, go there now.
For most folks, and in many media accounts, this circulation sounds very much like what we think of as “the Gulf Stream”. But there are some distinctions. In our wide ranging conversation, I asked Mike to flesh that out.
Below, video from a Dutch group that has been modeling the impact on changes in temperature and salinity in the north atlantic, due to melting in Greenland and elsewhere. Those changes can impact weather around the globe, but, maybe not as intuitively, sea level rise. Recent published research has shown that changes in the flow of the AMOC can cause abrupt impacts on sea level on the eastern coast of North America. Read the rest of this entry »
March 25, 2015
More from my extended interview with Mike Mann. If you did not see the video this week on Mike’s headline grabbing new paper (with Jason Box and lead author Stefan Rahmstorf) covering the North Atlantic Current, make sure you see that now.
Here Mike gets deeper into the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation – and what changes in it mean for global weather.
A 10 year project to observe and analyze regular data about ocean circulation and how it impacts on Britain’s climate has provided new insight into Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a major system of currents in the North Atlantic.