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

James Kasting: Finding a habitable planet

Planet Earth. Photo: NASA As we encounter all the successes and setback to environmental sustainability on our planet, there are those keeping up the mission to figure out what makes Earth habitable to begin with and whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. James Kasting, a geoscience professor at Penn State University and arguably the world’s leader in the study of habitable planets, offered some insights at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on Wednesday. His new... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on September 22, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists

Frigid mountain glaciers prevent erosion

Glaciers are well known shapers of the landscape as they advance and recede through the ice ages. In the U.S. we even have Glacier National Park named after the work of glaciers, which carved out huge valleys and lakes and sculpted the dramatic mountains, which have exposed the finest fossilized examples of extremely early life found anywhere on Earth. As we all know, glaciers are in trouble. At the Montana Park, only 25 glaciers remain in 2010 of an estimated 150 that existed in the mid 1800s, and... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on September 17, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists

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

A bipolar seesaw

How do you have an Ice Age and warming at the same time? As wacky as the climate patterns on Earth are right now, they’ve been stranger in human history. A paper in the journal Nature this week draws attention to the Younger Dryas conundrum about 13,000 years ago, a period of abrupt climate change. The last Ice Age was ending, owing to a shift in the Earth’s orientation to the sun, bringing us into the modern, temperate period that sustained the rise of civilizations. But the global warming... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on September 10, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climates of the Past

Oceans away

One of the most disturbing aspects of climate change is the impact on the oceans, which are a tremendous source of nutrients for life on land. Acidification, ice melt, and surface temperature increases are impacting sea life in a myriad of ways. How much can the ecosystems take? An editorial in the September 2010 edition of the  journal Nature Geoscience points out that the oceans may be floundering at their most basic level of the food chain: phytoplankton. The microscopic, photosynthesizing... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on September 7, 2010 No Comments »
Category : The Oceans

An emissions filter

Peat bogs are an amazing carbon store. Up to a third of all the terrestrial carbon on Earth is captured by this kind of acidic wetland, a depository of dead plant material in northern ecosystems that are very biodiverse. As the planet warms, a lot of that carbon is being released back into the atmosphere as methane, one of the more potent forms of greenhouse gases. The source: the anaerobic degradation of a kind of moss called Sphagnum. Sphagnum decays in peat bogs. But a new study published in... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on September 1, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists

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