The Hot Zone

Polar ice sheet melt largest source of sea level rise

Melting ice sheets from Greenland and Antarctica has long been tied to rising sea levels. But these two sources are outpacing all others — including mountain glaciers and ice caps — t0 become the dominant feature in raising the seas, according to a new study slated for publication this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Part of the reason for the significance of these polar ice sheets is that the rate of melt is accelerating. Researchers at the University of California,... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on March 9, 2011 No Comments »
Category : Earth Systems, The man made climate

Sixth extinction almost here, but not quite

Scientists define a mass extinction as when the Earth loses more than 75 percent of its species in short geological time, within 2 million years. This hasn’t happened very often — only five times in the last 540 million years. Is it happening now again? The “sixth extinction” has been discussed by biologists for decades. In a paper published this week in the journal Nature, University of California at Berkeley-led biologists take stock on the status of the the Earth’s... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on March 3, 2011 No Comments »
Category : Climates of the Past, The man made climate

A case for curbing near-term pollutants that worsen climate change

Carbon dioxide is usually the greenhouse gas of choice in climate discussions, mainly because it’s long lasting, so the impacts of higher levels unfold over decades, if not centuries. But a new policy paper by the UNEP and World Meteorological Association shines light on the lesser discussed, more immediately potent molecules in the atmosphere: black carbon, and ground-level ozone. The paper states that if reduction measures were introduced on these other molecules (by 2030), future global... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on February 22, 2011 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The man made climate

How Genghis Khan may have cooled the planet

If human consumption and population growth can be linked to warming the climate, there’s certainly a sensible argument to be made that a reversal in the trend could cool the planet down. War, invasion, disease epidemics, and societal collapse — all events that are devastating to humans — may actually have helped drop temperatures momentarily, according to a study published this week in the journal, The Holocene. It’s kind of a morbid perspective, and one that pits humans squarely... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on January 21, 2011 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

The messiness surrounding weather and climate

I’m gazing out the window of my family’s house in North Carolina where 8.5 inches of snow dropped suddenly late Christmas Day. There hasn’t been a snowflake on Christmas in some 50 years, according to the weather records that were meticulously researched by my snow-crazed family. It’s been a white Christmas all up and down the East Coast, making it easy to forget (or scoff off) that 2010 will be one of the warmest years on record by world meteorological standards. The distinction... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 28, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The man made climate

Spotlight on Lake Tahoe: Climate change brings earlier springs and less snow for famous ski resort

This is the first installment of a new, regular series in The Hot Zone that spotlights the local effects of climate change in different places in the world. As the globe heats up, it’s becoming apparent that the effects are not uniform everywhere. Some places are getting wetter, some places drier, species are shifting in different ways with dramatic implications for ecosystems. The predominating force shaping the future of the local environment differs as well. In the oceans, acidification... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on November 19, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The man made climate

Earth’s climate could take 100,000 years to recover, and a game to solve our climate woes

Maybe this isn’t news. But it sure got my attention. The Geological Society of London put out a position statement on climate change this week, and among its many interesting tidbits said that the Earth’s climate could take 100,000 years or longer to recover from this most recent bout of CO2, absent any human mitigation. The Society based this projection on numerical models of the climate system that went into the 2007 IPCC report. The Society’s advice, based on this conclusion,... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on November 3, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, Climates of the Past, The man made climate

Climate refugees or invading species? What to do with species on the move.

Previously├é┬á I wrote about the debate in the scientific community about recolonizing species into new areas as climate change forces them out of their old homes. Apparently, a similar debate is happening in the U.S. parks service. I was at an event this week commemorating the opening of a Ocean Climate Center in San Francisco, a place where federal agencies can combine research and mitigation efforts on climate change. Frank Dean, the superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area,... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on October 27, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

Commerical space travel could threaten the climate

Commercial spaceflight could open up all kinds of new opportunities that would expand the limitations of Earth. Mining asteroids for heavy metals, energy generation through solar power satellites, and space tourism are all ideas that are being explored as companies seek ways to make business out of the Final Frontier. With companies like Spaceport America opening the world’s first commercial spaceport in Las Cruces, New Mexico earlier this month and Virgin Galactic now booking $200,000 space... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on October 25, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

Population growth could reverse carbon reduction gains

Back in the late 1960s, the environmental movement was in a tizzy over predictions that overpopulation would soon cause mass human starvation and eventually kill the planet. But the Malthusian vision fell to the wayside once the Green Revolution made farming that much more productive and countries began enacting environmental reforms that lessened some of the worst abuses in pollution. These days you don’t hear much concern over the size of Earth’s ballooning human population, even as... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on October 15, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The man made climate


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