The Hot Zone

Invasive species can trigger mass extinction

Invasive species are becoming more rampant today as a result of climate change and other factors. Changes in precipitation and temperature patterns often favor invasives, which have an uncanny ability to adapt and spread in stressed ecosystems. A new study shows how invasives can actually trigger a mass extinction similar, perhaps, to what we’re seeing under modern day biodiversity loss. Geologist Alycia Stigall at Ohio University explored the late Devonian extinction, one of five mass extinctions... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 31, 2010 1 Comment »
Category : Climates of the Past

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

Nitrous oxide from streams contributing to climate change at three times rate previous expected

Carbon dioxide is bad for global warming, but nitrous oxide (N2O) may be one of the worst chemical compounds you can pump up into the air. Not only does it have 300 times the potency of CO2, but it also destroys stratospheric ozone (the good kind) — a double whammy on the atmosphere. That’s why it’s unnerving to read a new study out of the Biological Sciences department of the University of Notre Dame that found N2O emissions coming from streams and rivers at three times the rate... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 20, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, The Oceans

Changes in human culture match major climate shifts

A changing climate changes the environment. We know that. But it also may change culture. In a lesson that could have some relevance to human societies today, geographers at the University of Ottawa examined the overlap between climatic change and the changes in tool technology and other artifacts by Native American tribes during three ancient time periods. Humans have lived on the North American continent long enough to have experienced dramatic shifts in climate caused by ice sheet expansion and... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 7, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climates of the Past

Clouds may be key to determining how high temperatures will rise

The kind of clouds in the sky is an important factor in determining surface temperatures, scientists have long known. Low-lying clouds tend to reflect sunlight back into space keeping the climate cooler, while high clouds trap heat. The best estimates on global surface temperatures under climate change varies from an astounding 3.6 to 8.1 degrees F. There’s a difference there big enough to change holiday plans, or alter an ecosystem. It’s the kind of clouds in the sky that matter in all... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 3, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climate Science and Scientists

Tens of thousands of years needed for Earth to recover from mass carbon releases

It’s easy to come up with ways that carbon is released into the atmosphere — an erupting volcano, a massive wildfire, or in today’s world, millions of fossil fuel burning cars and power plants. But how does carbon eventually get put back into the earth? A paper published in Nature Geoscience this month by scientists at Purdue University and the University of California at Santa Cruz examined the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, a 170,000 year period of global warming that took... [Read more]

Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 1, 2010 No Comments »
Category : Climates of the Past


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