Staying Up To Date

Get the latest science, research, and policy news relating to the Global Systems Science books:

Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to this page with RSS. (What is RSS?)
Join GSS mailing list Join the GSS mailing list—send a message to GSS staff). List receives a weekly digest of the Staying-Up-To-Date articles, as well as occasional GSS news.
Complete Archive (organized by chapter)
New World View
Climate Change
Life and Climate
Losing Biodiversity
Energy Flow
Ecosystem Change
Population Growth
Energy Use
A Changing Cosmos
ABCs of Digital Earth Watch Software

Latest News and Updates

2014-11-15. New NASA map shows Earth bombarded by asteroids.

posted Nov 16, 2014, 11:17 AM by Alan Gould

By Shelby Lin Erdman, CNN. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 1. Excerpt: Fiery asteroids smash into Earth's atmosphere at such a stunning rate, .... A new NASA map [] from the ... Near-Earth Object Program [], reveals that more than 556 space rocks smashed into the atmosphere over a 20-year period between 1994 and 2013. ...The good news is most are small and harmless fireballs that disintegrate when they hit the atmosphere, .... An obvious exception occurred on February 15, 2013, when an asteroid as large as 55 feet in diameter with a mass of up to 10,000 tons crashed to earth in the Urals region in Russia, streaking through the morning sky in Chelyabinsk [] before landing in a fiery explosion that injured more than a thousand people and caused an estimated $33 million in damage. ...NASA said the Chelyabinsk asteroid was the largest to hit the Earth during the agency's mapping period. [see also Meteor blast at local school -] ...The NEO Program helps detect and track space rocks that could cause a potential danger to Earth. "The new data could help scientists better refine estimates of the distribution of the sizes of NEOs," NASA explained. "Finding and characterizing hazardous asteroids to protect our home planet is a high priority." ...NASA is also developing an Asteroid Redirect Mission called ARM. In a plan that sounds a lot like science fiction, NASA wants to redirect a space rock into orbit around the moon by the 2020s so astronauts can study it more closely. The mission could also help develop ways to deflect an asteroid should one be found on a collision course for Earth. See also NASA's All Sky Fireball Network [].... Source:

2014-11-12. Fishermen in Brazil Save a River Goliath, and Their Livelihoods.

posted Nov 13, 2014, 7:17 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7. Excerpt: TEFÉ, Brazil ...In piranha-infested waters, fishermen go in search of the pirarucu, which can grow as long as seven feet and weigh more than 400 pounds, placing them in the ranks of freshwater megafish.... With overfishing and habitat degradation threatening such Goliaths in different parts of the world, riverbank dwellers and biologists in the Amazon are working together to save the pirarucu (pronounced pee-rah-roo-KOO) by prohibiting outsiders from catching the fish and overhauling their own methods of pursuing it. Their effort to save the fish is yielding a pioneering conservation success story in the Amazon while offering a strategy for fending off a broader freshwater extinction crisis, according to fisheries experts who track the depletion of big fish in the world’s rivers and lakes. ...Authorities began by issuing a general ban on pirarucu fishing in 1996 in Amazonas — the giant Brazilian state in the Amazon River basin that is three times the size of California — but granting local peoples exclusive fishing rights to waters in their territory. ...More than 1,400 fishermen in and around Mamirauá take part in the pirarucu management regime, hewing to quotas and tagging each fish they catch. Fishermen in 2013 took home an average of about $650 each from pirarucu fishing, a welcome sum in far-flung villages. Still, illegal pirarucu fishing flourishes in parts of the Amazon, lowering prices for the fish in street markets.... By Simon Romero, The New York Times.

2014-11-12. Landing on Comet, a Mission Aims to Unlock Earth’s Mysteries.

posted Nov 12, 2014, 5:56 PM by Alan Gould

For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: In a technological feat that gives scientists their first opportunity to dig into a remnant of the early solar system, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission successfully placed a small spacecraft on the surface of ... Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a 2.5-mile-wide ball of rock, ice and dust moving faster than 40,000 miles an hour,....” The agency’s director general, Jean-Jacques Dordain said at a news conference... “Not only is it the first to rendezvous with and orbit a comet, but it is now also the first to deliver a probe to a comet’s surface.” ...For scientists, one of the central mysteries that Rosetta will explore is whether Earth’s oceans are filled with melted comets ... slamming into the Earth early on.... See also interview with Joel W. Parker, planetary scientist.... Kenneth Chang, The New York Times.

2014-11-11. U.S. and China Reach Climate Accord After Months of Talks.

posted Nov 12, 2014, 8:13 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: BEIJING — China and the United States made common cause on Wednesday against the threat of climate change, staking out an ambitious joint plan to curb carbon emissions as a way to spur nations around the world to make their own cuts in greenhouse gases. The landmark agreement, jointly announced here by President Obama and President Xi Jinping, includes new targets for carbon emissions reductions by the United States and a first-ever commitment by China to stop its emissions from growing by 2030. Administration officials said the agreement, which was worked out quietly between the United States and China over nine months and included a letter from Mr. Obama to Mr. Xi proposing a joint approach, could galvanize efforts to negotiate a new global climate agreement by 2015. It was the signature achievement of an unexpectedly productive two days of meetings between the leaders. ...A climate deal between China and the United States, the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 carbon polluters, is viewed as essential to concluding a new global accord. Unless Beijing and Washington can resolve their differences, climate experts say, few other countries will agree to mandatory cuts in emissions, and any meaningful worldwide pact will be likely to founder. ...As part of the agreement, Mr. Obama announced that the United States would emit 26 percent to 28 percent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005. That is double the pace of reduction it targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020. China’s pledge to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner, is even more remarkable. To reach that goal, Mr. Xi pledged that so-called clean energy sources, like solar power and windmills, would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030.... Mark Landler, The New York Times.

2014-11-02. U.N. Panel Issues Its Starkest Warning Yet on Global Warming.

posted Nov 3, 2014, 12:12 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Nov 7, 2014, 4:40 PM by Angela Miller ]

For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpts: ... The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report. Despite growing efforts in many countries to tackle the problem, the global situation is becoming more acute as developing countries join the West in burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said here on Sunday. Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year. ...In the starkest language it has ever used, the expert panel made clear how far society remains from having any serious policy to limit global warming. ... would require leaving the vast majority of the world’s reserves of fossil fuels in the ground or, alternatively, developing methods to capture and bury the emissions resulting from their use, the group said. ...The new report comes just a month before international delegates convene in Lima, Peru, to devise a new global agreement to limit emissions, and it makes clear the urgency of their task.... Justin Gillis, The New York Times. The actual IPCC Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report is at

2014-10-31. NASA Program Enhances Climate Resilience at Agency Facilities.

posted Oct 31, 2014, 1:33 PM by Alan Gould

For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: A new study in the latest issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society provides an in-depth look at how NASA facilities have been affected by climate extremes and climate change in recent years and how the agency is preparing for the future. ...The study found that by the 2050s, sea level rise alone could lead to an increase of 50 percent or more in coastal flooding frequency with varying impacts to NASA facilities, a high percentage of which are located near coastlines. In total, the agency has approximately $32 billion in constructed assets and about 64,000 employees, contractors and partners. ...Adaptation strategies underway and under consideration include: beach re-nourishment to minimize sea level rise and storm surge impacts; building designs that reduce reliance on the remote power sources that may become less reliable during extreme events; and, landscaping changes that reduce water use in dry regions and capture rain water to reduce flooding in wet regions. NASA satellite products and climate models are being used to inform decision-making about energy and water use and other onsite assets.... NASA RELEASE 14-292.

2014-10-31. EPA Adaptation Implementation Plans.

posted Oct 31, 2014, 1:25 PM by Alan Gould

 For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: On October 31, 2014, EPA released the final versions of its Agency-wide Climate Change Adaptation Plan (PDF, 64pp, 1.7mb) and the 17 Climate Change Adaptation Implementation Plans produced by the Program and Regional Offices. These final versions were revised from earlier drafts following public comment periods. They respond to directives in Executive Order 13653 - Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change (PDF, 8pp, 325kb). The final EPA Plan and the 17 Implementation Plans are living documents that will be periodically revised in subsequent years to account for new knowledge, data, scientific evidence, and lessons learned from the Agency’s ongoing efforts to integrate climate adaptation planning into its programs, policies, rules and operations..... EPA.

2014-10-30. The military is planning for global warming.

posted Oct 31, 2014, 1:15 PM by Alan Gould

For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: The Pentagon released its first big report on global warming in 2000. Three years later came a paper by military strategists with the stated purpose of “imagining the unthinkable”—namely, climate change as a national security threat. Then 2007 brought another report, published by retired generals, and a climate conference paid for by U.S. Army War College. And earlier this month, the Pentagon released its most recent global warming manifesto, the “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” to much fanfare. These reports make it clear that the U.S. military will have to deal with a lot of global turmoil due to climate change. Increased droughts could fuel wars over water rights, and as agriculture suffers, skirmishes could break out over fertile land, too. Some commentators have linked a climate change–induced drought to the rise of the terrorist group ISIS in the Middle East. Global-warming refugees will strain humanitarian resources, possibly causing conflicts as they seek new homes, and many of the military’s own low-lying coastal bases could one day find themselves underwater. ...Net Zero is the army’s plan to limit its bases to the energy they generate and water they can collect and treat on-site. Net Zero bases will also be forbidden from depositing garbage in landfills. Fort Hunter Liggett is building a large solar array in California. ...The Oregon National Guard and the Marine Corps in Hawaii are studying the possibility of using ocean waves to generate electricity. The list goes on. In addition to shrinking the troops’ environmental footprint, Net Zero improves the military’s readiness for future campaigns, which could involve fights over resources.... Brian Palmer, onEarth, NRDC. *.

2014-10-23. Climate Change Indicators in the United States.

posted Oct 24, 2014, 3:36 PM by Alan Gould

For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: ...Temperatures are rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and more extreme climate events—like heavy rainstorms and record high temperatures—are already taking place. EPA ... working with many other organizations to collect and communicate data about climate change... EPA has compiled the third edition of this report, presenting 30 indicators to help readers understand observed long-term trends related to the causes and effects of climate change. ...Most indicators focus on the United States, but some include global trends to provide context or a basis for comparison, or because they are intrinsically global in nature.... U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

2014-10-16. U.S. Sees Increase in Days with Multiple Tornadoes.

posted Oct 24, 2014, 3:14 PM by Alan Gould

For GSS Climate Change chapter 8 and Energy Flow chapter 7. Excerpt: ...Since 1954, there has been a decrease in the number of days per year in the U.S. with any tornadoes, but an increase in the number of days with many tornadoes, according to a new study published in the 17 October issue of journal Science. "It was surprising to see," said the study's lead author Harold Brooks, senior research scientist at NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory. "I would naively expect these trends to go in the same direction." ...Brooks and colleagues also observed that despite speculation climate change is causing more tornadoes, the overall number of tornadoes each year since 1954 has remained relatively constant. ...Although the annual number of EF1 or greater tornadoes remained relatively constant over the period evaluated, the researchers did see that tornadoes have been clustering more since the 1970s. A single day in April 2011, for example, featured 211 tornado events.... Meagan Phelan, AAAS.

1-10 of 509