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

2016-04-26. Crowdsourced Seismology.

posted Apr 29, 2016, 10:57 AM by Alan Gould

By Elizabeth Deatrick, EoS Earth and Space Science News (AGU). For GSS Energy Flow chapter 2. Excerpt: The seismologists of the world want to turn you into an earthquake detector. ...At the Seismological Society of America (SSA) meeting last week, in a session on “Citizen Seismology,” researchers from around the globe presented their crowdsourced earthquake detection networks. From cell phone apps to sensors in basements, these projects recruit ordinary people to gather and report data on nearby earthquakes. They generate dense networks of sensors while also teaching their citizen volunteers about earthquakes. Made possible by the advent of the Internet and smartphones, this distributed way of gathering data can sometimes make up for shortfalls of traditional precision seismograph networks, seismologists said....

2016-04-28. NASA Climate Blog entry: We're over being bummed about climate change and ready for solutions.

posted Apr 29, 2016, 10:22 AM by Alan Gould

By Laura - interviewing Susan Hassol. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10. [Comment from GSS Director, Alan Gould: While it's important to understand causes and effects of the climate change we are experiencing, it's far more important to understand the even larger context of the root causes of the problem and, by implication, the obvious solutions. The GSS curriculum materials explore two avenues of solutions: (1) in Energy Use, the devastating side effects of our fossil fuel based energy systems that include air pollution, climate change, economic instability, and threats to national security to name a few, and (2) Population Growth, in which it becomes obvious that all these problems would not exist without an excessively burgeoning human population on our planet. When I say obvious solutions, my current thinking is advancing sustainable energy systems such as solar panel arrays, wind generators, biofuels, geothermal energy, and hydro-energy systems based on rivers, ocean tides and waves. For population growth, the obvious solutions are ways to control or stop human population growth, one important aspect of which is education for women (and men).]

2016-04-27. Monarchs Need Better Pit Stops on Their Epic Journeys.

posted Apr 29, 2016, 9:22 AM by Alan Gould

By Susan Cozier, Natural Resources Defense Council. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 6 and Losing Biodiversity chapter 1, 5, or 8. Excerpt: Projects across the Midwest are trying to bring milkweed and nectar-filled flowers back to the landscape. ...In the past 25 years, monarch numbers have taken a nosedive, plummeting more than 90 percent due primarily to habitat destruction. The butterflies migrate back and forth across North America, fluttering south to Mexico for the winter and north as far as Canada in spring and summer. The round-trip journey spans three butterfly generations or more, and to make it, they need plants: those that provide nectar to fuel them and those that help them make more monarchs. Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs lay eggs and is crucial to the species’s survival. ...[Mary] Galea’s project, part of the Pollinator Partnership, is just one of many looking at how we can revive monarch populations across the United States. The plants Galea and others are growing could prove critical to monarch populations in Ohio. Real success, however, won’t rely only on the greenery in our backyards, parks, and roadsides; we’ll also have to address what chemicals we spray on farm crops. Once upon a time, milkweed grew naturally on farms, between fields  of corn and soybeans. But farmers, under pressure to increase their yields, plowed fallow fields and started growing genetically modified crops designed to resist the powerful herbicide glyphosate (marketed as Roundup). Knowing these “Roundup ready” crops could withstand widespread application of the herbicide, farmers would spray entire fields with the chemical instead of targeting their crops directly. Now, native plants, such as milkweed, die right along with the unwanted weeds. As the milkweed went, so went the monarchs. By some estimates, the amount of milkweed along the monarchs’ midwestern path fell nearly 60 percent between 1999 and 2010. And we’re still losing one to two million acres of habitat a year, thanks to development, over-mowing, and pesticides, says Chip Taylor, a prominent monarch researcher at the University of Kansas and head of Monarch Watch....

2016-04-19. 2016 Already Shows Record Global Temperatures.

posted Apr 19, 2016, 1:18 PM by Alan Gould

By Tatiana Schlossberg, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 4. Excerpt: ...It has been the hottest year to date, with January, February and March each passing the mark set in 2015, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. March was also the 11th consecutive month to see a new record for temperatures since agencies started tracking them in the 1800s....  See also: NOAA monthly update, March 2016 -

2016-04-11. Controversial Pacts Aim for Dam Removals on Western U.S. River.

posted Apr 17, 2016, 8:53 PM by Alan Gould

By Randy Showstack, EoS Earth & Space Science News (AGU). For GSS Energy Use chapter 4. Excerpt: Two landmark agreements support removal of four dams on California’s and Oregon’s Klamath River to restore fish runs and water quality while also protecting local water users, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced at a 6 April signing ceremony on a bank of the river. ...Although a broad range of local tribes, water users, and other stakeholders support the new agreements, some officials and residents oppose the dam removal plan, saying that the dams provide power for the region and that their removal would pollute the river....

2016-04-09. Climate-Related Death of Coral Around World Alarms Scientists.

posted Apr 12, 2016, 9:13 AM by Alan Gould

By Michelle Innis, The New York Times. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7. Excerpt: SYDNEY, Australia — Kim Cobb, a marine scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, expected the coral to be damaged when she plunged into the deep blue waters off Kiritimati Island, .... Still, she was stunned.... “The entire reef is covered with a red-brown fuzz,... It is algae that has grown over dead coral. It was devastating.” The damage off Kiritimati is part of a mass bleaching of coral reefs around the world, only the third on record and possibly the worst ever. Scientists believe that heat stress from multiple weather events including the latest, severe El Niño, compounded by climate change, has threatened more than a third of Earth’s coral reefs. Many may not recover. Coral reefs are the crucial incubators of the ocean’s ecosystem, .... An estimated 30 million small-scale fishermen and women depend on reefs for their livelihoods,.... The largest bleaching, at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, was confirmed last month. In a survey of 520 individual reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef’s northern section, scientists from Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Task Force found only four with no signs of bleaching. ...half the coral they had seen had died.  ...A large underwater heat wave formed in the northeastern Pacific in early 2014, and has since stretched into a wide band along the west coast of North America, .... Then came 2015, with the most powerful El Niño climate cycle in a century. ...“We are currently experiencing the longest global coral bleaching event ever observed,” said C. Mark Eakin, the Coral Reef Watch coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Maryland. “We are going to lose a lot of the world’s reefs during this event.” Reefs that take centuries to form can be destroyed in weeks....

2016-04-08. Youth Climate Change Laws Upheld in Oregon.

posted Apr 12, 2016, 9:11 AM by Alan Gould

Our Children's Trust. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: Today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal District Court in Eugene, OR, decided in favor of 21 young Plaintiffs, and Dr. James Hansen on behalf of future generations, in their landmark constitutional climate change case brought against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry. The Court’s ruling is a major victory for the 21 youth Plaintiffs, ages 8-19, from across the U.S. in what Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein call the “most important lawsuit on the planet right now.” These plaintiffs sued the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and their right to essential public trust resources, by permitting, encouraging, and otherwise enabling continued exploitation, production, and combustion of fossil fuels....

2016-04-07. Climate Models May Overstate Clouds’ Cooling Power, Research Says.

posted Apr 12, 2016, 9:07 AM by Alan Gould

By John Schwartz, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 7. Excerpt: The computer models that predict climate change may be overestimating the cooling power of clouds, new research suggests. ...The new paper suggests the effects of a flaw in the model could be serious: Based on its analysis of one model of climate change, the cloud error could mean an additional 1.3 degrees Celsius of warming than expected....

2016-04-04. Does Nuclear Power Have a Future in America?

posted Apr 8, 2016, 11:49 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Apr 8, 2016, 11:58 AM ]

By Brian Palmer, OnEarth NRDC. For GSS Energy Use chapter 4. Excerpt: ...growing concerns about climate change began beckoning a few wary environmentalists into the carbon-free nuclear camp, with such notables as Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand and renowned climatologist James Hansen endorsing a nuclear expansion. ...the first new reactor of the 21st century, Watts Bar Unit 2 had finally received its operating license ( ...Nuclear’s heyday came in the 1970s. Utilities broke ground on dozens of reactors around the country, including two units at Tennessee’s Watts Bar facility in 1973. ...In the early 1970s, a utility could build a reactor for only $170 million. ...By the early 1980s, the average price for building a reactor had risen to $1.7 billion—a tenfold increase in a decade. analysts ... recognized that the industry could be viable only if (1) the country instituted a carbon tax to increase the cost of fossil fuels, and (2) prices for coal and natural gas stayed high. Neither condition panned out. ...the Watts Bar project hit its own speed bumps. Initially slated to open in 2014, the project is now two years behind schedule. TVA has also admitted the project would cost at least $1.5 billion more than anticipated—a 60 percent overrun on its $2.5 billion budget. And that doesn’t include the $1.7 billion the company spent in the 1970s and ’80s. ...“Energy efficiency gains, wind, and solar are now proven to be smarter, cheaper, faster ways to address climate change without the burdens of nuclear waste, the risk of severe nuclear accidents, or the nuclear weapons proliferation problem,” notes [Matthew] McKinzie [, director of NRDC’s nuclear program]....

2016-03-29. Jupiter Got Whacked by Yet Another Asteroid/Comet!

posted Apr 6, 2016, 1:42 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Apr 6, 2016, 1:49 PM ]

By Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 1. Excerpt: On March 17, Gerrit Kernbauer, an amateur astronomer in Mödling, Austria, was taking video of Jupiter using a 20 cm telescope. ...he got more than he expected. At 00:18:33 UTC he captured what looks very much like the impact of a small comet or asteroid into Jupiter! [see video] ...On average object will hit Jupiter with roughly five times the velocity it hits Earth, so the impact energy is 25 times as high. The asteroid that burned up over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 was 19 meters across, and it exploded with the energy of 500,000 tons of TNT. Now multiply that by 25, and you can see how it doesn’t take all that big a rock to hit Jupiter for us to be able to see it from Earth. Incidentally, at these huge speeds, hitting the atmosphere is like slamming into a wall. A lot of people get understandably confused how an asteroid can explode due to air, but the pressures involved ...are ridiculously huge. The air and rock heat up, the rock starts to fall apart, and each chunk then gets hot, and so on, creating a very rapid cascade that releases the energy of motion in just a second or two. Bang. Very, very big bang. Jupiter gets hit a lot. ...The most famous is the string of impacts from the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994, which hammered the planet over and again as the comet, broken into a dozen separate pieces by Jupiter’s gravity, slammed into the planet and exploded. In 2009 something relatively big hit the planet (and Hubble caught the aftermath). It was hit again in June 2010 (with a cool color photo this time), and then again in August 2010. A repeat performance was held in September 2012. ...Looking over these observations, it seems that on average Jupiter gets hit by something big enough to see from Earth about once per year. Mind you, we miss ones that happen on the far side of the planet, or when Jupiter is too close to the Sun to be observed....

[Here are observed impacts over the past couple decades on Jupiter:]

16-22 July 1994  [P/SL-9 20+ fragments]

19 July 2009 [Anthony Wesley]

3 June 2010 [Anthony Wesley & Christopher Go]

20 Aug 2010 [Masayuki Tachikawa]

10 Sept 2012 [Dan Petersen]

17 Mar 2016

1-10 of 761