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Posts Tagged "climate change"

@ScientificAmerican

Earth Day E-Book Examines The Future of Energy: Earth, Wind and Fire

Scientific American E-Book: The Future of Energy: Earth, Wind and Fire

Since the Industrial Revolution our civilization has depended on fossil fuels to generate energy—first it was coal; then petroleum. But there are two problems: the first is that petroleum isn’t an infinite resource; and the second is that burning coal and oil puts billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping heat. Temperatures [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Storm Warnings: Climate Change and Extreme Weather–The Latest E-Book from SA

Storm Warnings -- ebook cover

Scientific American launched its e-Book program this summer, starting with The Science of Sports: Winning in the Olympics. Each month, we add new titles selected from the most relevant issues facing science today. For November, we turn our attention to our immediate environment. Hurricanes. Blizzards. Flooding. Drought. If extreme weather events like these seem to be [...]

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Brainwaves

How the Antarctic Icefish Lost Its Red Blood Cells But Survived Anyway

In 1928, a biologist named Ditlef Rustad caught an unusual fish off the coast of Bouvet Island in the Antarctic. The “white crocodile fish,” as Rustad named it, had large eyes, a long toothed snout and diaphanous fins stretched across fans of slender quills. It was scaleless and eerily pale, as white as snow in [...]

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Budding Scientist

Why America’s Kids Need New Standards for Science Education

Earlier today, a group of scientists, educators and policymakers released the newest draft of the Next Generation Science Standards, which lay out ambitious expectations for what elementary, middle and high school students should learn at each grade level. These guidelines affect virtually every child enrolled in public school, and advocates say they will revolutionize STEM [...]

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But Not Simpler

The Overwhelming Odds Of Climate Change

Stack_of_Copy_Paper

If you listen to global warming deniers, or even much of the public, it seems like there is some stack of scientific studies somewhere that refute anthropogenic—human-caused—climate change. If someone would just let them reach into that pile and pull out a paper, we’d all see that climate change is “a hoax,” or so it [...]

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Cross-Check

Should Global-Warming Activists Lie to Defend Their Cause?

6a01116837a6c2970c0147e18e35bb970b-500wi

When, if ever, is lying justified? I talked about this conundrum this week in a freshmen humanities class, in which we were reading Immanuel Kant on morality. Kant proposed that we judge the rightness or wrongness of an act, such as breaking a promise, by considering what happens if everyone does it. If you don’t [...]

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Culturing Science

Warming Gives Us One More Month of Flowers in the Rockies

Few-flowered shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum) has had its whole schedule pushed 12 days earlier—first, peak, and last blooms. Photo by Thayne Tuason. CC BY-NC 2.0

No matter the temperature, I don’t consider it to be really spring until I spot the first spring beauties of the year. These sweet whitish/pinkish mid-Atlantic florets (Claytonia virginica) are among the first to stretch out of the mud and leaf litter to add a spritely touch to an otherwise brown woodscape. When I see [...]

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Culturing Science

How One Little Molecule Influences Earth’s Climate

phytoplankton-small

A seemingly humdrum little molecule has found itself responsible for not just one but two positive feedback loops, one moderating climate and the other gathering animals across the food web.

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Culturing Science

Age of Miracles: What If Climate Change Were Sped Up?

"Age of Miracles" using the slowing of the earth's rotation as a stand-in for climate change.

Sometimes it frustrates me that we feel the effects of climate change so slowly, if at all. It’s not that I’m an apocalypse-monger, dreaming of mass hysteria induced by floods and droughts, shortages of food and fuel. Rather, I worry about people’s incredible ability to acclimate: to let changes go unnoticed, as long as they’re [...]

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Expeditions

Climbing Mount Everest: My Search for Dirty Snow

Editor’s note: This April, geologist and Ph.D. candidate Ulyana Horodyskyj will be climbing Mount Everest to determine how much soot is settling on snow at the top of mammoth glaciers, which could slow their growth at the top, even as they melt at much lower elevations. She will post updates to this blog as she [...]

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Expeditions

An Intrepid Look at Winter with Climate Scientist and Adventurer Felicity Aston

Felicity Aston is a British adventurer, climate scientist and STEM advocate, who in 2012 became the first woman to ski solo across Antarctica. At 23, Felicity left the UK to spend three years living and working in the Antarctic as a meteorologist with the British Antarctic Survey at Rothera Research Station. On her return, she was part of [...]

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Expeditions

You wanted to know: what are these phytoplankton?

First, thanks to everyone for asking such fabulous questions. I’m going to try to get to them all, but you’re an inquisitive bunch so I might have to miss a few. I’ve also found that they group into a couple of different general topics – so I’ll try to do them in clusters…like this post! [...]

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Expeditions

ICESCAPE scientists reach ‘Station 100′ and re-don mustang suits, hard hats and steel-toed boots

white board with plans on it

Editor’s Note: Haley Smith Kingsland is an Earth systems master’s student at Stanford University specializing in science communication. For five weeks she’s in the land of no sunsets participating in ICESCAPE, a NASA-sponsored research cruise to investigate the effects of climate change on the Chukchi and Bering seas. This is her fourth blog post for [...]

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Expeditions

ICESCAPE analyzes chlorophyll in algae: “The most important measurements of the whole cruise”

try of tiny plastic test tubes full of seawater samples

Editor’s Note: Haley Smith Kingsland is an Earth systems master’s student at Stanford University specializing in science communication. For five weeks she’s in the land of no sunsets participating in ICESCAPE, a NASA-sponsored research cruise to investigate the effects of climate change on the Chukchi and Bering seas. This is her third blog post for [...]

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Expeditions

ICESCAPE scientists scan Arctic seas for melt ponds, “frazil,” “grease” and “pancake”

Haley Smith Kingsland in the Arctic

Editor’s Note: Haley Smith Kingsland is an Earth systems master’s student at Stanford University specializing in science communication. For five weeks she’s in the land of no sunsets participating in ICESCAPE, a NASA-sponsored research cruise to investigate the effects of climate change on the Chukchi and Bering seas. This is her second blog post for [...]

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Expeditions

Icebreaker Healy sets forth on ICESCAPE

haley-in-arctic

Editor’s Note: Haley Smith Kingsland is an Earth systems master’s student at Stanford University specializing in science communication. For five weeks she’s in the land of no sunsets participating in ICESCAPE, a NASA-sponsored research cruise to investigate the effects of climate change on the Chukchi and Bering seas. This is her first blog post for [...]

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Expeditions

Will the algae still bloom?

Editor’s Note: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution oceanographer and photographer Chris Linder and science writer Helen Fields are taking part in a six-week cruise of the Bering Sea, a scientific expedition to study the effects of climate change on this polar ecosystem. This is the fourth blog post. To see all their posts, see "60 Seconds [...]

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Expeditions

Onto the Arctic sea ice?

Editor’s Note: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution oceanographer and photographer Chris Linder and science writer Helen Fields are taking part in a six-week cruise of the Bering Sea, a scientific expedition to study the effects of climate change on this polar ecosystem. This is the first blog post. To see all their posts, see "60 Seconds [...]

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Expeditions

Kicking rocks

Editor’s note: Marine geophysicist Robin Bell is leading an expedition to Antarctica to explore a mysterious mountain range beneath the ice sheet. Following is the thirteenth of her updates on the effort as part of ScientificAmerican.com‘s in-depth report on the "Future of the Poles." McMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA — Last Saturday, we had a flurry of [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Blue-Footed Boobies Have Stopped Breeding—But Why?

Blue-footed boobie

One of the most delightful bird species of the Galápagos has almost completely stopped breeding there. According to a new study published this week in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology, blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii) have seen a population drop of more than 50 percent over the past two decades. A series of surveys from [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Lion Tamarins versus Climate Change

golden lion tamarin

Ecologically speaking, humans maintain a pretty broad niche. We can adapt to live just about anywhere. Most other species aren’t that lucky. Take the four species of lion tamarins, for example. These small, endangered monkeys of the genus Leontopithecus rely on very narrow niches of habitat in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, areas that already face [...]

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Extinction Countdown

How Will Climate Change Affect Mountain Gorillas?

mountain gorilla vermeer sq

When you live on the top of a mountain, you don’t have many places to run if the environment of that mountain habitat changes. Look at the American pika, for example. These tiny, rabbit-like mammals have evolved to live in cold, high-elevation habitats and die if exposed to temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately climate [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Dig This: Decline of Australian Digging Mammals Impacts Entire Ecosystems

bandicoot

How much soil would a bandicoot dig if a bandicoot could dig soil? Quite a lot, it turns out. The southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus) weighs just 1.4 kilograms, but over the course of a year this tiny digging marsupial can excavate more than 3.9 metric tons of soil as it builds its nests and [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Piping Plovers in Migration: Foraging for Their Lives

piping plover

Is invisibility overrated? For many species, the ability to camouflage themselves against their natural habitat provides safety from predators and other unwanted eyes. But in some ways, the opposite effect happens for the rare birds known as piping plovers (Charadrius melodus). They might actually be in better shape if more eyes saw them. Well, human [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Climate Change Could Wipe Out Amazing Baobab Trees in Madagascar

baobab

The Ewe people of Togo, Africa, have a proverb: “Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.” The proverb refers to the massive trees of the genus Adansonia that can live thousands of years, reach 30 meters into the sky and achieve trunk diameters of 10 meters or more. One baobab [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Philippines Cancels Planned Burn of Confiscated Elephant Tusks after Clean-Air Groups Object

elephant with tusks

This Philippine government this weekend cancelled plans to burn $10 million worth of seized elephant tusks after several clean-air groups cried foul. The Philippines isn’t the only country trying to destroy its ivory stockpiles. Gabon conducted a massive ivory burn last year—an act that  their government said sent a message to poachers in that country [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Climate Change versus Groundhogs: Even Common Species Will Suffer

groundhog

A warming world will present Punxsutawney Phil and his cousins with a host of new challenges, possibly enough to put some species at risk of extinction. According to research published last month in the journal Natural Science, climate change will bring temporary benefits to several of the world’s 15 marmot species (including the groundhog), but [...]

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Extinction Countdown

The Last 50 Corroboree Frogs and Other Links from the Brink

southern corroboree frog

A colorful frog, some Hawaiian mollusks and California’s threatened fish are among the endangered species in the news this week. The Frog Extinction Crisis Continues: How much longer until we have to say good-bye to the southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree)? The rare Australian amphibian, one of the world’s most colorful and well-known endangered species, [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Amphibians in U.S. Declining at “Alarming and Rapid Rate”

yellow-legged frog

A new study finds that frogs, toads, salamanders and other amphibians in the U.S. are dying off so quickly that they could disappear from half of their habitats in the next 20 years. For some of the more endangered species, they could lose half of their habitats in as little as six years. The nine-year [...]

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Food Matters

Cultivating Reform: Planting The Seeds For Healing The Food System

Travis

In late October, the Yale Rudd Center got a visit from Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right To Food. He began his talk, Reforming the Food Systems: Making the Transition Succeed,  by painting a bleak picture. There are three areas in which our food systems are failing us, De Schutter said: ecological limits, social [...]

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Guest Blog

In Africa, Climate Change Wages War on Bodies, Not Just Lands

Dr. Kassahun Desalegn and patient

While the African Union concentrates on strategies to mitigate the devastating financial effects climate change is having on Africans, I worry instead about its impact on our bodies. As a doctor working in my native Ethiopia, I see the results of our warming planet, not just in the dry earth or the torrential skies, but [...]

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Guest Blog

Stick to the Science

Editor’s note: The following is a response by climatologist Michael E. Mann to a Q&A article that appeared in the June 2011 issue of Scientific American, which became available to readers in May. Last month, Scientific American ran a disappointing interview by Michael Lemonick of controversial retired University of California, Berkeley, physics professor Richard Muller.  [...]

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Guest Blog

To catch a fallen sea angel: A mighty mollusk detects ocean acidification

  "What’s more," snapped the Lorax. (His dander was up.) "Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp. Your machine chugs on, day and night without stop making Gluppity-Glupp. Also Schloppity-Schlopp. And what do you do with this leftover goo?… I’ll show you. You dirty old Once-ler man, you! "You’re glumping the pond where the [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Unstoppable Extinction And Fermi’s Paradox

Really, this is what I evolved into? (Images used: Stephen Ausmus, USDA ARS, Matt Martyniuk)

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the evidence that we are currently within a period of mass extinction, the kind of event that will show up in the fossil record a few million years from now as a clear discontinuity, a radical change in the diversity of life on the planet. This [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Humans Bring On Many Changes, Most Are Far From Painless

What happens in Vegas apparently spreads from Vegas....

From atmospheric changes, to timelapse imagery from Google Earth…our planetary presence is hard to miss. This past week has seen the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere reach a level of 400 parts-per-million, a value the planet hasn’t seen since several million years ago. To put this into some kind of context let’s [...]

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Molecules to Medicine

Hurricanes, Poverty, and Neglected Infections

This week, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, is always a time for me for reflection on poverty and justice in America. Katrina brought focus to our country’s disparities and the response—or lack thereof—to disasters. And now, ironically on the anniversary of Katrina, Hurricane Isaac struck New Orleans again. Even prior to the Hurricane, in 2005, [...]

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Observations

Happy, Hot Earth Day! [Interactive]

earthday-agenda

Almost no one had heard of global warming when the U.S. commemorated its first Earth Day 44 years ago. Now most Americans know about anthropogenic climate change—whether or not they accept the science is another story. But the temperature records for our 50 states say it all: we’ve observed a gradually warmer Earth Day on [...]

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Observations

Big Climate Danger Could Arrive as Soon as 2036

Mann graph

Climate change is changing. In three days we will find out how much, and how rapidly. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is meeting in Yokohama, Japan, will release the second report of its massive assessment on Sunday, March 30 EDT (March 31 in Japan). The report will weigh the impacts of climate [...]

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Observations

Global Warming: Democrats and Republicans Agree

elephant donkey

Wait, what? Contrary to the polarized positions that politicians and commentators often take in the media, Americans do not disagree about global warming or what to do about it. The vast majority of citizens in every U.S. state believe global warming has been happening and that human actions are part of the cause—including residents of [...]

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Observations

Mathematical Patterns in Sea Ice Reveal Melt Dynamics

Melt ponds on the surface of Arctic sea ice. Credit: Karen Frey

Some people call Ken Golden the “Indiana Jones” of mathematics due to his frequent excursions to remote, harsh parts of the world. Golden, a professor of mathematics at the University of Utah, studies the dynamics of sea ice, and he regularly goes out into the field to test his hypotheses. He has visited the Arctic [...]

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Observations

How Many More Coal Ash Spills?

dan-river-coal-ash-ponds

What is the largest type of trash produced in the U.S.? It’s not whatever you’re thinking, most likely. It’s coal ash. Burning coal produces more than 100 million metric tons of coal ash per year—the gray or black sooty aftermath of our fossil fuel habit. Even though a good chunk of it is turned into [...]

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Observations

Keystone Pipeline Will Impact Climate Change, State Department Reports

oil-sands-refinery

How much can one oil pipeline affect global climate change? That’s one of the fundamental questions probed by a new, final environmental impact assessment released January 31 by the U.S. State Department. At issue is the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry 730,000 barrels a day of oil from western Canada, mostly from Alberta’s tar [...]

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Observations

12 Graphics That Contain Everything You Need to Know about Climate Change

earth-energy-heat-budget

Climate change is real, it’s here and it will be affecting the planet for a long, long time. That’s the lesson of the latest iteration of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s state of climate science report, released in its entirety on January 30. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have now touched 400 [...]

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Observations

Obama Vows More Executive Action on High-Tech Manufacturing, Climate Change Mitigation and Renewal of Science

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

After a year buffeted by squeezes to federally funded research from a government shutdown as well as an extremely bumpy rollout of healthcare.gov, President Barack Obama’s fifth State of the Union Tuesday night struck a few hopeful notes for science and technology. Speaking before Congress, he devoted roughly a fifth of his  speech to topics [...]

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Observations

What Is This “Polar Vortex” That Is Freezing the U.S.?

vortex graphic

As I write these words, temperatures across half the U.S. are plummeting like a rock. Extreme lows are forecast by tonight: -32 degrees Fahrenheit in Fargo, N.D.; -21 degrees F in Madison, Wisc.; -15 degrees F in Chicago and Indianapolis, according to the National Weather Service. Wind chills will reach a bizarre 60 degrees below [...]

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Observations

A Better Answer to Climate Change Is Hidden in the Clouds

Clouds

Climate scientists are studying a bewildering array of changes taking place in the air, on land and in the sea. But where should they concentrate their efforts? First and foremost, it seems, are clouds. Better understanding of how clouds affect global warming, and how airborne particles affect cloud formation, is one of three gaps in [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

8 Awesome Octopus Facts for World Oceans Day

octopus facts world oceans day

Octopuses are amazing. In honor of World Oceans Day, here are eight facts about these incredible creatures. 8. Octopuses are masters of camouflage. However, research suggests that octopuses don’t try to blend into their entire environment—to look like coral, sand and seaweed all at once. A study published last year  found that octopuses, instead, picked [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapse Recorded in Octopus DNA

western ice sheet antarctica

Octopuses have made themselves at home in most of the world’s oceans—from the warmest of tropical seas to the deep, dark reaches around hydrothermal vents. Antarctic species, such as Turquet’s octopuses (Pareledone turqueti), even live slow, quiet lives near the South Pole. But these retiring creatures offer a rare opportunity to help understand how this [...]

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Plugged In

The California Drought: “A Stark Warning of Things to Come”

California Drought

This is what California looked like on January 13 in 2013 and 2014. You’ll notice things have changed. I live here, so this morning I listened as Governor Jerry Brown delivered his annual State of the State address. He described the drought as cause for long-term concern: We do not know how much our current [...]

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Plugged In

Did Climate Change Intensify Supertyphoon Haiyan?

At the UN climate talks in Poland, Yeb Sano, the head of the Philippines delegation has announced he will refrain from eating until participants make “meaningful” progress. In his address, Sano linked the terrible devastation in the Philippines after Supertyphoon Haiyan to climate change. “What my country is going through as a result of this [...]

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Plugged In

What if all the ice melted?

Asia_sea_level_385

Sea level would rise 216 feet and create new shorelines and inland seas.

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Plugged In

No shenanigans here, U.S. carbon emissions are down

Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. energy-related carbon emissions are down in 2012 according to the Energy Information Administration: Now there are several ways to say that carbon emissions are down. A common practice is to use carbon intensity, which is a handy policy metric for measuring carbon emissions against economic output (tons of carbon dioxide emissions to GDP). But [...]

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Plugged In

Drown your town: what does your hometown look like with sea level rise?

drownyourtownLA_385

A Google Maps hack provides a sneak peak at sea level rise.

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Plugged In

Dialogue on Sustainable Food and Agricultural Biotech Begins Today, Not Everyone’s Thrilled

Insect resistant corn growing in Kenya

How will humanity feed 9 billion people in the year 2050? That’s the question that helped harvest this year’s World Food Prize recipients, including Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley, from the field of food researchers. The trio will be honored at the 2013 Borlaug Dialogue, a symposium on agricultural research that is [...]

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Plugged In

Will oil companies become carbon capture ones?

Credit: Mississippi Power

I pose this question in the larger context of “how we will get from here to there” (that is, from a carbon-intensive economy to a more efficient, low-carbon intensity economy). Recognizing that carbon capture and sequestration will likely be one of many approaches to staying within our carbon budget, we should look at the potential [...]

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Plugged In

Surplus fossil fuels make it even harder to stay within our carbon budget

donkey_dusk_385

A scarcity of fossil fuels won’t drive a shift to a lower carbon future.

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Plugged In

Treating climate change like any other budget issue

choose your own adventure_385

The climate system has a carbon budget of one trillion pounds. How quickly we spend that is up to us.

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Plugged In

Teach the Children Well…About Water

Today, all eighth and ninth graders in the public school system here in Decatur, Ga., are partaking in a day-long seminar known as Water Wise. Last night, I attended the preview complete with presentations about water-borne diseases, water conservation, and the intricate interplay between energy use and water. The night capped off with a screening of the 2011 [...]

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Roots of Unity

Joint Math Meetings Wrap-Up

I wrote a few blog posts while I was at the Joint Mathematics Meetings back in January, but now you can read some more comprehensive coverage of the meetings at the American Mathematical Society website. In addition to AMS staff members, there were three of us former AAAS-AMS Mass Media Fellows in the press room, [...]

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Symbiartic

Start 2014 in Style With These ScienceArt Exhibits

13-055FEATURE

All in all, 2013 was a bang-up year for science art. It seems the genre is gaining ground as more and more exhibits tackle the fascinating possibilities that exist at the intersection of science and art. 2014 seems to be continuing the trend with a wide array of notably longer exhibits. Enjoy! EXHIBITS: NORTHEAST REGION [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt on the Scene in Nov/Dec. 2013

13-049FEATURE

Ahhh, fall. Time to look for more indoor activities. And aren’t you lucky? Here’s a list of sciart exhibits that will warm your heart while you warm your toes. EXHIBITS: NORTHEAST REGION CLIMATE CHANGE IN OUR WORLD: Photographs by Gary Braasch October 16, 2013 – July 6, 2014 Museum of Science 1 Science Park Boston, [...]

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Symbiartic

I Heart Copepods. You should, too.

11-020JellyfishFEATURE

It’s hard to believe a tiny animal like krill could exist in large enough numbers to feed an animal as massive as a whale, let alone the world’s population of whales (even if we did do our best to hunt whales to extinction in the 1800s). Likewise, it’s hard to fathom that a modest little [...]

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Talking back

Science Lesson During Sandy: Scary Pimples

Throughout Sandy, I was cooped up in my apartment in northern Manhattan with my son Benjamin, who was studying for a medical school exam on the cranial nerves. I drilled him through endless lists, ocularmotor nerve (cranial III),  hypoglossal (cranial XII), and so on. Then he volunteered a medical factoid that I had never heard [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

About that consensus on global warming: 9136 agree, 1 disagrees.

The consensus about global warming among scientists (Image: James Powell)

I just want to highlight this illuminating infographic by James Powell in which, based on more than 2000 peer-reviewed publications, he counts the number of authors from November, 2012 to December, 2013 who explicitly deny global warming (that is, who propose a fundamentally different reason for temperature rise than anthropogenic CO2). The number is exactly [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

East Antarctic glaciers could be much more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought.

Glacier advance and retreat in the East Antarctic from 1974-2010. Red circles indicate advance, blue indicate retreat, n refers to number of glaciers studied (Image from Miles et al. Nature, 2013)

The warming, melting and potential contributions to sea level rise from glaciers in Greenland and West Antarctica in the face of climate change has long since been a serious concern. The behavior of the much larger East Antarctic ice sheet has been much more uncertain and until now has been thought to be relatively insensitive [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Global warming slowdown retrospectively “predicted”

When I was in graduate school I once came across a computer program that’s used to predict the activities of as yet unsynthesized drug molecules. The program is “trained” on a set of existing drug molecules with known activities (the “training set”) and is then used to predict those of an unknown set (the “test [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Friday levity: More CO2 will be better. Also, meth is good for you.

Since we were discussing the differences between climate change “skeptics” and “deniers” (or “denialists”, whatever you want to call them) the other day this piece is timely. The Wall Street Journal is not exactly known for reasoned discussion of climate change, but this Op-Ed piece may set a new standard even for its own naysayers [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Climate change “deniers” and “skeptics”: What’s the difference?

This post is really a question. Over the past few years, ever since the climate change debate, well, heated up, the words “skeptic” and “denier” have been thrown around on countless websites and blogs, usually accompanied by much frothing at the mouth. This has left me wondering; is there anything bordering on a consensus among [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Political ideology can dominate other factors in choosing energy efficiency

Energy efficiency sounds like a good idea on multiple fronts; mitigating global warming, reducing dependence on foreign oil and saving money. Conservatives and liberals may disagree about the first reason, but you would expect both of them to enthusiastically embrace energy efficiency based on the other two reasons. Yet we find attitudes toward energy efficiency [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Climate change denial, laissez-faire economics and conspiracy theories: A productive pairing?

Climate change denial, laissez-faire economics, conspiracy theorizing. A new study suggests that these rather diverse belief systems may lie on a continuum. That climate change denialists don’t believe in anthropogenic global warming is a given, but are there other more general indicators of their belief system that include climate change denial as a subset? This [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Climate change models fail to accurately simulate droughts

Most of my day job involves simulating the behavior of molecules like drugs and proteins using computer models. The field is more an art than a science, partially because the systems that are being modeled are too complex and ill-understood to succumb to exact solutions. Success often depends on experience and intuition gained by working [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Climate change might open up Northwest Passage to shipping by the middle of the century.

  Investigating what is sometimes seen as one of the more favorable effects of climate change, a pair of scientists from UCLA has done a careful analysis of the melting of Arctic sea ice and concluded that it could lead to ships traversing the ice-free Northwest Passage (NWP) by 2050. It would also lead to [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Are climate change models becoming more accurate and less reliable?

One of the perpetual challenges in my career as a modeler of biochemical systems has been the need to balance accuracy with reliability. This paradox is not as strange as it seems. Typically when you build a model you include a lot of approximations supposed to make the modeling process easier; ideally you want a [...]

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