The Hot Zone

Asphalt volcanoes

The ocean’s version of the La Brea Tarpits has been discovered off the Santa Barbara coast, so-called asphalt volcanoes that probably added a lot of methane to the atmosphere when they were active some 35,000 years ago and deposited massive flows of petroleum offshore. The underwater volcanoes are part of a larger structure of tar deposits in the area, and although the volcanoes themselves are not active, oil has been bubbling steadily out of nearby seeps in the underground rock for thousands... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on April 30, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climates of the Past, The Oceans

Soil critters

We’ve heard a lot about methane bubbling out of the Arctic permafrost. But just as much concern over soil carbon emissions is factoring into global warming prediction models. The idea is that higher temperatures activate the gazillions of microbes in the soil, and they hungrily chomp their way through plant debris and the like, in the process creating enzymes that respirate lots of carbon molecules into the atmosphere. Rich soil in Alaska's boreal forest. Credit: Steven D. Allison It turns... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on April 26, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists

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

Energy Audit

Where has all the energy from global warming gone? Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado trying to track global warming couldn’t account for about half of where the all net energy  goes. In a piece published today in the journal Science, the authors looked at measurements of incoming solar energy and outgoing radiative energy to show that the Earth is, indeed, warming. But they concluded that we have no idea where the excess energy is going. Certain... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on April 15, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Earth Systems

World’s Water Towers

Apparently it’s not just the polar icecaps breaking apart that’s cause for worry. Yesterday a huge ice block snapped from a mountain in Peru and plunged into a lake, causing a 75-foot tsunami that washed away dozens of homes and a water processing plant in a rural town. Up to a half dozen people died. Photo courtesy of Times of Malta So much for slow glacial melt. The Hualcan glacier collapse proves that climate change can be just as dramatic and sudden in the tropics as it is on the... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on April 13, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists

Whose climate?

Sometimes I wonder why global warming has played out so differently on the political landscape than the ozone hole. Both are problems related to human induced disruptions of the Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, back in 1987 the world responded to the growing danger of the ozone hole with an exceptional act of international cooperation by enacting the Montreal Protocol, which phased out ozone depleting chemicals. To be fair, the treaty was preceded by more than 10 years of published research and a... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on April 9, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The Politics of Climate Change

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

Into the Deep

There’s a glut of research on climate change. Seemingly every day some new study comes out demonstrating the latest scientific understanding of changes to the Earth’s systems. But the foundation of much research of this type is measurement, and there are, of course, severe limits to what can be measured. Improvements to our measurement abilities goes a long way towards improving and expanding climate change research. Which is why a new technology that fuels ocean robot exploration has... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on April 6, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The Oceans

Small is beautiful

It’s easy to get caught up in the promise of geoengineering. No sacrifice required, no real change in the way we do business. It becomes easy to overlook reachable efforts when a technology fix is all that’s considered needed. But one reachable effort that has no discernibly negative effects deserves more attention: cooking stoves. They’re certainly not as sexy as giant reflectors orbiting the Earth, or pumping CO2 deep underground, but we pretty much know that stoves will work. Much... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on April 2, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The Politics of Climate Change, The man made climate

The Great Tinkering

Last week more than 175 scientists met at a seaside resort center in Monterey, California to confront the controversial  issue of geoengineering the planet to stem global warming. Participants at the Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies — or Asilomar 2, following the first one in 1975 on bioengineering — declared that geoengineering research is “indispensable” but should be be done with “humility.” They outlined two main geoengineering... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on April 1, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The man made climate

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