The Hot Zone

Building Blocks

It’s common to think of physical conditions as the building blocks of life. A plant’s growth is limited by the amount of light, rainfall, and the type of soil. Changing climate conditions these days – drought, warmer weather, sea level rise — is typically seen as a primary driver of a species’ ability to adapt or die. But it’s important to remember that life can also drastically impact the basic physical conditions of the Earth’s systems. Oxygen in the atmosphere... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on March 29, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The Oceans

Not set in stone

Welcome to the Anthropocene – the “human epoch.” Geological time may seem set in stone, and certainly it has been (as far as we’ve defined it) for the past 12,000 years in the Holocene. But the Holocene’s relatively stable interglacial climate, so hospitable that it allowed the rise of human civilization, seems to be coming to a close. Geologic epochs are typically defined by distinctive changes in sedimentary layers. So what makes these days geologically different?... [Read more]

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

Extreme Sand

By Alison Hawkes A fine yellow dust has gripped Beijing and parts of central and northern China, blown in from the Gobi Desert in a whirling cloud. Nothing, including China’s “Great Green Wall,” an ongoing project to develop a 2,800-mile belt of planted trees, could stop it. On the ground, people went about their days draped in face masks, as Beijing reached a pollution index of 500 — the worst possible level — because of all the particulate matter in the air. From above... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on March 22, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

Unhappy Gas

By Alison Hawkes Remember the ozone hole? Well, it’s not gone yet but as of a 2005 IPCC report, the problem has stabilized, thanks to the worldwide ban on CFCs. That’s good because no one wants to get fried by ultraviolet radiation, but bad because it may be leading to greater warming, especially in the Antarctic. Geo-engineering enthusiasts say we should just shoot up sulfur aerosols, finely suspended sulfur particles that reflect sunlight, into the atmosphere. Never mind that we’d... [Read more]

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

Spring has Sprung

By Alison Hawkes Ahh spring. Just three more days and it’s officially started. We know to expect the usual delights: warmer weather, rain, and with that a giant bloom of flowers, leaves, and fresh growth. So giant, in fact, that all that photosynthesis will draw down atmospheric CO2 levels by several ppms. Check it out. This graph provided by the Mauna Loa research station in Hawaii shows the continuous climb in CO2 levels. The red line shows monthly mean values measured from the top of the... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on March 18, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists

Toxic Waters

By Alison Hawkes Remember the old idea that we could escape climate change by dumping a bunch of iron into the ocean? Iron “seeding” or “fertilization” rests on the notion that iron could be added to the nutrient-deprived deep sea to cause massive phytoplankton blooms, which would capture carbon and, as they died, sink it to the ocean floor. Sounds good, except many people have gotten cold feet over human-induced iron seeding – after all, it seems like too much tampering... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on March 16, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The Oceans

View from Above

By Alison Hawkes In 2007, the journal Science published a study that concluded that the severe drought in the Amazon in 2005 actually prompted forests to thrive because more sunshine led to a flourishing of plant growth. On the other hand was a IPCC-published claim (from the World Wildlife Fund) that only a small drop in rainfall could cause some 40 percent of the Amazonian forests to die off and switch to savanna. Both of these studies can’t be true. Extreme die-off and plant growth during... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on March 12, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The Politics of Climate Change

Carbon Outsourcing

By Alison Hawkes Everyone points the finger these days to China, which has emerged as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. But come to think of it, that’s a little odd, isn’t it? The Chinese people, themselves, for the most part, live way below Western standards. They just produce many of the goods that we consume in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. So what if we looked at greenhouse gas emissions in a way that shifts the responsibility not on the producer of goods, but... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on March 10, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The Politics of Climate Change

Sparkle of the Sea

By Alison Hawkes This just in from NASA’s Aqua satellite: a giant phytoplankton bloom in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Pakistan. Phytoplankton bloom in Arabian Sea The green swirls are, of course, the phytoplankton, which are individually microscopic but combine in huge numbers to form algae blooms like this one. Blooms are common during monsoon season, when strong winds blow across the ocean towards land causing the upwelling of cold seabed water that’s chalk full of nutrients. The... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on March 8, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The Oceans

Bull in China Shop

By Alison Hawkes Methane first came to the world’s attention in relation to global warming in the form of a snicker. Flatulating cattle were what we were supposed to fearful of? Vegetarians cited it as proof that a meat obsessed diet was ruining the planet, while almost everyone else with a sense of humor paused and then returned to worrying about seemingly more serious sources of greenhouse gas emissions. But this week attention was turned back to methane in a study published in the journal... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on March 6, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The Oceans


About Us
Contact Us
Links
Chief Editor & Executive Producer: Helen Matsos
Copyright 2007-08, Astrobit.net