The Leap Manifesto was recently launched by a range of Canadian intellectuals, celebrities, and organizations as an attempt to combat catastrophic climate change by convincing Canadians that business as usual is not the only way. [more inside]
"Every County in America Ranked by Natural Beauty" -- Christopher Ingram of the Washington Post presents an interactive map comparing the "natural amenities" of every county in the continental US, from a USDA study of "six measures of climate, topography, and water area that reflect environmental qualities most people prefer." [more inside]
The Weight of the World: Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself? by Elizabeth Kolbert [New Yorker]
Of all the jobs in the world, Figueres’s may possess the very highest ratio of responsibility (preventing global collapse) to authority (practically none). The role entails convincing a hundred and ninety-five countries—many of which rely on selling fossil fuels for their national income and almost all of which depend on burning them for the bulk of their energy—that giving up such fuels is a good idea. When Figueres took over the Secretariat, in 2010, there were lots of people who thought the job so thankless that it ought to be abolished. This was in the aftermath of the fifteenth COP, held in Copenhagen, which had been expected to yield a historic agreement but ended in anger and recrimination.
The war on coal is not just political rhetoric, or a paranoid fantasy concocted by rapacious polluters. It’s real and it’s relentless. Over the past five years, it has killed a coal-fired power plant every 10 days. It has quietly transformed the U.S. electric grid and the global climate debate.
At the very top of oceans and inland waters lies a distinct micrometer-thick microbial habitat. It influences climate change, fosters unusual and deadly bacteria, and is made of jelly. It is the surface microlayer.
The Chinchorro mummies are found in northern Chile and southern Peru; the oldest of them date to thousands of years before the first Egyptian mummies. Some of them mummified naturally, but most were intentionally mummified. The hot, arid conditions of the Atacama desert aided in this process. However, these mummies are now the latest victims of climate change, as increased humidity encourages bacterial growth that is transforming them into black ooze.
If enough of us decide that climate change is a crisis worth of Marshall Plan levels of response, it will be. [more inside]
On the day before Danielle Smalley was to leave for college, she and her friend Jason Stone were hanging out in her family's mobile home. Seventeen years old, with long chestnut hair, Danielle began to feel nauseated. "Dad," she said, "we smell gas." It was 3:45 in the afternoon on August 24th, 1996, near Lively, Texas, some 50 miles southeast of Dallas. The Smalleys were too poor to own a telephone. So the teens jumped into her dad's 1964 Chevy pickup to alert the authorities. As they drove away, the truck stalled where the driveway crossed a dry creek bed. Danielle cranked the ignition, and a fireball engulfed the truck. "You see two children burned to death in front of you – you never forget that," Danielle's father, Danny, would later tell reporters. [more inside]
Australian comic artist Sam Wallman (previously) has released a scary/optimistic new piece that looks at Climate Change.
Neither Thucydides, Gibbon, von Ranke, nor Braudel ever cited a paper appearing in Geophysical Research Letters. They did not worry themselves about fluctuations in the Siberian High or the Southern Oscillation. The vast majority of more recent historians also remained untroubled by such concerns. However, in the past five years, a handful of highly distinguished historians have come out with new books that put climate at the center of historical explanation. What on Earth is going on? [more inside]
Vyacheslav Korotki is a man of extreme solitude. He is a trained polyarnik, a specialist in the polar north, a meteorologist.
Halfway through my three-week, 417-mile journey down the “most endangered” river in America, the water began flowing backward and the mud started talking. It spoke in baritone gurgles, like Barry White trapped in a bong. You know what this is, John? No, Barry White mud. This is QUICKSAND.
Invertebrate numbers nearly halve as human population doubles. The decline of birds might have something to do with this recent news that half the insects (and spiders, crustaceans, slugs, worms) are gone.
It's Science Week in Australia and the crowdsourcing call has gone out for Weather Detectives to look through old ships' log books and track weather observations from the 1890s and 1900s. It's a good project for older kids, and aims to improve weather forecasting and track climate change. Do try this at home, kids.
"Novels are no use at all in days like these, for they deal with people and their relationships, with fathers and mothers and daughters or sons and lovers, etc., with souls, usually unhappy ones, and with society etc., as if the place for all these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time." [more inside]
Word association time: I say "peat", you say… "Scotland", right? Not necessarily! Peat is found around the world, including in many African countries. Earlier this year, scientists trekked through a Congo swamp, braving gorillas, elephants, crocodiles, and more. Their reward? Discovery of a peat bog the size of England. The team estimates that the bog covers between 100,000 and 200,000 square kilometers (40,000 to 80,000 sq miles), with the peat-layer reaching up to 7m (23ft) beneath the ground.
Building a plausible world: a step-by-step tutorial, from plate tectonics to trade winds. [more inside]
This morning the U.S. government released the newest National Climate Assessment, which "concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country." You can explore the assessment here. Previously.
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
Harrison Harrison Ford, correspondent for Showtime's Years of Living Dangerously (previously), answered questions on Ask Me Anything (slreddit). You may also recognize Mr. Ford as Dr. Indiana Jones.
On 10 April 1815, Tambora produced the largest eruption known on the planet during the past 10,000 years. As described in Gillen D'Arcy Wood's new book, the explosion was only the first dose of Tambora's destructive power. In terms of its enduring presence in folklore, as well as its status in the scientific literature, 1816’s cold summer was the most significant meteorological event of the nineteenth century. After the tsunami and famine came cholera, opium, and failed Arctic expeditions. [more inside]
Pronbably to no one's surprise, Southern California leads the nation in the number of pleasant days per year (mean temperature between 55° F and 75° F, no precipitation). How does your city stack up?
The successor to the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the NASA/JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) spacecraft is preparing for launch at the Japanese Tanegashima Space Center. GPM will be the newest international Precipitation Measurement Mission and will be the core observatory of the GPM Constellation. The two sensors on-board GPM are the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) and the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR). The GPM/DPR team has produced a fantastic anime about the DPR instrument. [more inside]
There is another bubble. Before it's burned, Coal, Oil and Gas sit for years on the balance sheets of private (and national) resource companies, as "known reserve" assets. Assets that, someday, will become revenues. Or will they? And if they won't, what will the balance sheets of ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Petrochina, and Gazprom actually look like? [more inside]
Climate Models: A calendar of "renowned climate scientists, their research, their favorite datasets, and memorable dates in weather and climate history."
On October 8, the LA Times' Letter Editor, Paul Thornton published a piece entitled, "On letters from climate-change deniers" following up on a claim in an earlier article that said, " Simply put, this objection to the president's healthcare law is based on a falsehood, and letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there's no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed." [more inside]
President of the United States Barack Obama unveils his Climate Action Plan
While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment.[more inside]
On January 4th, 2013, in the midst of a national heat wave, Tasmania experienced some of the most extreme weather on record, with Hobart recording a record temperature of 41.8°C in the afternoon. Fires blazed around the state, covering almost 50,000 acres, claiming hundreds of properties, and destroying the town of Dunalley. The Tasman peninsula was cut off by the fires, necessitating a sea rescue of over 2,000 people. An image of a family clinging to a jetty in the water to escape from the fire captured the attention of the world. With the launch of their Australian edition, The Guardian have produced a frightening and fascinating multimedia article exploring the human side of the inferno.
Scripps Institute of Oceanography projects that next month its monitoring station will for the first time measure CO2 at 400 parts per million. Atmospheric CO2 has risen from 280 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution. 400 ppm is an arbitrary milestone that we'll blow right past on our way to 450 ppm within a few decades. This is an unprecedentedly fast rate of increase and it's getting faster. Not all measuring stations are exactly the same: A NOAA station in the Arctic measured CO2 at 400 ppm last year. [more inside]
With a database of over 5,000 scientists, from Nobel prize winners to postdocs and PhD students, Sense About Science works in partnership with scientific bodies, research publishers, policy makers, the public and the media, to change public discussions about science and evidence. They make these scientists available for questions from civic organizations and the public looking for scientific advice from experts, campaign for the promotion of scientific principles in public policy, and publish neat guides to understanding science intended for laypeople. [more inside]
Himileia Vastatrix, colloquially known as Roya or coffee rust, outbreaks are occurring at a frightening pace in Central America. Coffee futures and associated prices for specialty coffees, especially from small family-run farms are expected to rise, drastically, on top of a lower estimated harvest. [more inside]
Chicago has been having some fairly remarkable weather lately, even by their standards. On the 25th of January there was more than an inch of snowfall recorded for the first time in 335 days, a new record. Then a surge of warm air from the south brought a temperature of 63 degrees at O'Hare airport on January 29th, a new record for that date, exactly one week after a temperature of 9 degrees was recorded (which, combined with the 35mph winds on that date, produced a windchill factor of about -20f). The current forecast (at time of posting this) calls for a high of only 14f on Friday (Feb. 1st), another significant temperature swing within a few days.
...and the news ain't good: "Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. This evidence has been compiled by scientists and engineers from around the world, using satellites, weather balloons, thermometers, buoys, and other observing systems. The sum total of this evidence tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming." Overview letter is here, Executive Summary is here, and the full download is here. [WARNING: Full download runs to 147MB).
Meteorologist and climatologist Barbara Mayes Boustead has loved the Little House books since she was a little girl. At her blog Wilder Weather, Barbara makes "connections between weather and climate concepts, events during Laura’s time and in her books, and present or future weather and climate concerns." For example, in October of 1880, a storm is brewing. "The initial shot of cold air brought near-freezing temperatures and a little bit of precipitation up north on the 14th. The low pressure system deepened on the 15th as it got spinning in eastern Nebraska, pulling cold air around behind it while it brought moisture up from the south. Then, the low pressure just sat there for a while and deepened. As it got deeper, the winds behind it – in eastern South Dakota – got stronger. The storm stayed in the area of northwest Iowa to southern Minnesota through the 16th, then pulled away into northern Michigan on the 17th, leaving cold air and breezy conditions behind it." And in De Smet, South Dakota, Laura Ingalls and her family settle in for the beginning of the Long Winter. [more inside]
At Cambridge University, the Project for Existential Risk is considering threats to humankind caused by developing technologies. It will be developing a prospectus for the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, to be launched by the Astronomer Royal, a co-founder of Skype and the Bertrand Russell professor of philosophy. More detail from the university, while the news excites some journalists. [more inside]
In a report released [Tuesday], the World Bank analyzed the consequences of allowing temperatures to reach 4°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. ... the report's authors admit that predications are a challenge. Still, they do their best to try to paint a picture, and boy, is it grim.
The tragedy of climate change: the UK Pig Association is warning that due to droughts causing high pig food prices, a global bacon shortage is now unavoidable.
Vanua Levu, population 130,000, is the second largest island of Fiji. It is also the home of the village of Vunidogoloa, one of the fist villages in the world forced to relocate due to climate change. The entire nation of Kiribati could be next. Recently, a Kiribati man was denied immigration status in New Zealand as a "climate change refugee".
Let's take another look at Chris Wayan's PLANETOCOPIA (previously): A series of detailed conceptions and paintings of vastly different Earths based on differing climates and land mass position. A planet designed to speed up East-West cvilization development! A life-bearing super hot world! An Earth with most of the seas missing! Forever Ice Age Earth! [more inside]
Is climate change causing our recent extreme weather events? (pdf). A panel of eminent climate scientists lays out the current state of what we know, and what we don't know yet, in this forthcoming paper. Jason Samenow (of the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog) nicely summarizes the key points. [more inside]
Was climate science the real reason the strategic dynamos on the UVA board wanted president Teresa Sullivan gone? The fund manager behind the coup is "very, very angry" that I would even ask… In a three-part series (1, 2, 3) of muckraking blog posts, journalist Moe Tkacik investigates the possibility that the failed ouster of President Teresa Sullivan from the University of Virginia (previously) might have been motivated not by vague conflicts over Internet-based distance learning, as had been speculated — but instead by global-warming-denial politics, with the coup plotters on the Board opposing Sullivan over the hire of climate scientist Michael Mann (previously).
"If your science gives you a result you don't like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved." [more inside]