New Year’s Eve is a wonderful occasion to feel the long story of the Earth, and to appreciate our part in that narrative. On the last day of a calendar year, it is easy to connect with the “one year” image. And so, as we come to the end of December, I invite you to feel a condensed time frame for the Earth’s story …

January 1st marks the origin of Earth. By the end of February, the first simple cells appear. All the way through the spring and early summer, simple plants enrich the atmosphere with oxygen.

Around mid-August, complex cells emerge, and coral appears in the ocean. Beginning in mid-November, the oceans fill with multicellular life-forms. In the last few days of November, freshwater fish appear, and the first vascular plants begin to grow on land.

About December 1st, amphibians venture onto dry land. The great swamps that formed today’s rich coal beds existed between December 5th and 7th. On December 12th the largest of the Earth’s mass extinctions wipes out 95% of all species.

Life bounces back, and dinosaurs evolve on December 13th. Flowering plants come on the scene on December 20th. In another great extinction, the dinosaurs disappear shortly before midnight on December 26th, opening a space for modern mammals to emerge on the 27th.

Read the rest of this entry »


Welcome to the 2010 Climate B.S. of the Year Award.

2010 saw widespread and growing evidence of rapidly warming global climate and strengthening scientific understanding of how humans are contributing to climate change. Yet on the policy front, little happened to stem the growing emissions of greenhouse gases or to help societies prepare for increasingly severe negative climate impacts, including now unavoidable changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, sea-level rise, snowpack, glacial extent, Arctic sea ice, and more. These physical impacts will lead to sharply increased disease, military and economic instabilities, food and water shortages, and extreme weather events, among other things. Without appropriate risk management action, the United States will be hit hard. There is no safe haven. Yet confusion and uncertainty about climate change remain high in the minds of too many members of the public and Congress.

Why? In large part because of a concerted, coordinated, aggressive campaign by a small group of well-funded climate change deniers and contrarians focused on intentionally misleading the public and policymakers with bad science about climate change. Much of this effort is based on intentional falsehoods, misrepresentations, inflated uncertainties, and pure and utter B.S. about climate science. These efforts have been successful in sowing confusion and delaying action – just as the same tactics were successful in delaying efforts to tackle tobacco’s health risks.

To counter this campaign of disinformation, we are issuing the first in what may become a series of awards for the most egregious Climate B.S.* of the Year. In preparing the list of nominees, suggestions were received from around the world and a panel of reviewers – all scientists or climate communicators – waded through them. We present here the top five nominees and the winner of the 2010 Climate B.S.* of the Year Award.

Read the rest of this entry »

Plug-In PSAs

December 30, 2010

Plug-in America, an advocacy group, has produced a series of PSA spots promoting the advantages of electric and  plug in hybrid vehicles.

Not bad.

more below —

Read the rest of this entry »

William Kamkwamba

December 30, 2010

If you have not seen this story, you really should.

If  you have seen it, you should see it again,  now that we are on the threshold of a new year.  Serious inspiration and hope here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Utility Scale storage like Compressed air is now being built. But there are other, smaller scale options...

One of the standard punchlines for renewable energy haters is, “Ok, what do you do when the wind stops blowing/sun stops shining?”

One answer is, “The wind never stops, it’s always blowing somewhere, and sun and wind complement each other over the 24 hour day.” – so a distributed and well connected grid will always carry a baseload level of wind or solar energy.  Other answers include off-the-shelf storage techniques like Compressed Air Energy Storage, (see above pic) where excess night-time or “off peak” electricity is stored as compressed air in underground caverns. Several projects using this design are currently in the works. In addition, for some locations, pumped hydro storage is a good alternative.

A new alternative I had not heard of is a smaller scale, more personal option, Electric Thermal Storage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Latest image from the Physical Science Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab.

You are looking down at the north pole.  Note the temp scale, which is a scale of ANOMALIES, meaning, is it WARMER THAN or COLDER THAN the same day in an “average year”, defined as the average from 1968 to 1996.  It’s clear that, while the eastern US and parts of Eurasia are cold, the Arctic continues warm. The anomalies are not as strong as a week ago, but still unmistakeable.

Click for NOAA page

The pattern is like having the refrigerator door open, cold air pours out of the arctic,  and the fridge warms as milder air is drawn in.

The Denialists are of course making the best they can of this, just as they did last year, when a similar situation applied.

Read the rest of this entry »

Short NASA video examines how the agency derives one of the most utilized temperature data sets – the GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies) temperature record.

Read the rest of this entry »

Steven Chu – in a video  recorded before he was named Energy Secretary – gives an analogy to our current situation – “Titanic: The Sequel”.

I heard it just a few weeks ago in a Q and A session. ‘Volcanoes release way more co2 than humans.”


As the  commentator above relates, and as the US Geological Survey affirms, humans release 100 times more CO2 annually than all the world’s volcanoes.  When you hear this canard, point your denialist friend to the USGS Volcanic Gases and Climate page, where they can read it from the horse’s mouth.

Do the Earth’s volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities? Research findings indicate that the answer to this frequently asked question is a clear and unequivocal, “No.” Human activities, responsible for some 36,300 million metric tons of CO2emissions in 2008 [Le Quéré et al., 2009], release at least a hundred times more CO2 annually than all the world’s degassing subaerial and submarine volcanoes (Gerlach, 2010).

Read the rest of this entry »

Mauri Pelto is director of the North Cascades Glacier Climate project, and has been a resource and advisor to this series.  This past summer, a film crew accompanied Mauri and his team to a survey trip in on the ice.  A movie is in the works.

The video is a snapshot of an ongoing film project on the fate of Cascades Glaciers. Interested viewers may read more and contribute here.