The Hot Zone

Helping dying species find new habitats

Speaking of finding a habitable planet, the Sept. 24 journal Science has highlighted an interesting debate in the conservation community about recolonizing species that are going under because of climate change. The hope is that they can prevent species from going extinct by giving them a new home, one that is now habitable because of changing climate conditions. Some 20-30 percent of the Earth’s species are at high risk of extinction if global temperatures exceed 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on September 29, 2010 1 Comment »
Category : The man made climate

The terawatt challenge

This brought a smile to my face. Here’s the beginning of an intro into a recent Science paper on climate change: Slowing climate change requires overcoming inertia in political, technological, and geophysical systems. Of these, only geophysical warming commitment has been quantified. It’s true. How do you quantify the degree of political inertia around climate change? It seems endless. The authors of the paper, led by Stanford University doctoral student Steven Davis, go on to explain... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on September 15, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

Energy checkbook

The journal Science has devoted a special issue to puzzling out the Earth’s energy problem. Among the articles, foretelling the prospects of moving solar electricity from Africa to Europe, the downer that cellulosic ethanol has become, and the possibility of a nuclear renaissance, is a large chart that compares various energy sources in the way they consume other natural resources. The surprising thing about the chart is that coal and oil don’t come out looking so bad. There’s a... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on August 18, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

Engineering the skies

One favorite geo-engineering trick to stabilize the climate is to increase the amount of sunlight reflected back into space by pumping aerosols into the atmosphere, known as solar radiation management. While that might counter global warming to some extent, a new research paper published last month in the journal Nature Geoscience finds that it’s no solution to the planet’s climate woes and may in fact cause certain parts of the world to receive less precipitation, even as global temperatures... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on August 10, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

Sooty skies

If the world could make one major change that would stave off climate change, what would it be? Stanford University engineering scientist Mark Jacobson has the answer: get rid of black soot. The dense carbon particles are the result of incomplete combustion of a hydrocarbon from engines, forest fires, and power plants. Ever seen discolored walls above the baseboard of an electric heating unit? That’s black soot. Black soot is the result of incomplete combustion of a hydrocarbon Black soot is... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on July 29, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

What a degree means

Climate change scenarios are usually summed up in terms of expected change by a certain year. Like sea levels will rise by x amount by 2020 and y amount by 2050. Or by parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. But because no one really knows what kind of carbon dioxide increases we’re facing (that having to do with the CO2 cutting regimen we choose), the whole forecasting effort becomes very ambiguous. That’s led some to throw their hands up on achieving greenhouse gas reductions in... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on July 23, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

Drunk off fuel

Ethanol has been widely trumpeted as a viable alternative to fossil fuels, at least until a couple years ago when a food scarcity scare had people suddenly questioning whether food and energy should be competitors for the same land. But here’s another thing that needs considering. One in three molecules of ethanol in the atmosphere is now human-added. No one has questioned the impacts of pumping so much ethanol a year into the air. Until now. Research led by Princeton University has come up... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on July 13, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

This old lake

Lake Tanganyika is the world’s longest lake and at 10 million years, one of the oldest. Straddling four countries in East and Central Africa, Tanganyika spans 418 miles and plunges 1,870 feet deep, making it an important source of freshwater and fish for millions of people. It so happens that its features also make it a geologic gold mine. Deep in these waters, researchers are finding out more about modern day climate change. Lake Tanganyika. Photo courtesy of NASA Taking sediment cores from... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on June 2, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climates of the Past, The man made climate

Human volcano

The volcano in Iceland is a reminder of how ultimately precarious our situation is here on Earth. There’s just no telling what the planet’s systems have in store for us. We build entire civilizations on the assumption of permanence. But in moments the ground — or skies — can start shifting. As Eyjafjallajökull continued spurting dark clouds across Europe causing human chaos, scientists simply could not say for sure when the end of it was near. NASA image of ash dust from... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on April 21, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climates of the Past, The man made climate

Ask the locals

Know that old legend that Eskimos have umpteen words for snow? It appears that scientists are beginning to study native weather observations, and not just from an anthropological standpoint. The Inuit have been saying for years — way before climate change models could sufficiently back them up — that the weather was getting weird in the Arctic. “Unpredictable,” was the way they put it. Somewhat vague but meaningful to a people whose life depended on reading the weather tea... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on April 8, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate


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