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Complete Archive (organized by chapter for each book)
New World View
Climate Change
Life and Climate
Losing Biodiversity
Energy Flow
Ecosystem Change
Population Growth
Energy Use
A Changing Cosmos
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Latest News and Updates

2017-09-18. Solar-to-Fuel System Recycles CO2 to Make Ethanol and Ethylene.

posted Sep 21, 2017, 12:32 AM by Alan Gould

By Sarah Yang, Berkeley Lab News Center. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9. Excerpt: Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have harnessed the power of photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into fuels and alcohols at efficiencies far greater than plants. The achievement marks a significant milestone in the effort to move toward sustainable sources of fuel. ...said Berkeley Lab chemist Frances Houle, JCAP deputy director for Science and Research Integration, who was not part of the study. “This is a big step forward in the design of devices for efficient CO2 reduction and testing of new materials, and it provides a clear framework for the future advancement of fully integrated solar-driven CO2-reduction devices.”...

2017-09-15. From Heat Waves to Hurricanes: What We Know About Extreme Weather and Climate Change.

posted Sep 21, 2017, 12:28 AM by Alan Gould

By Nadja Popovich, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: It’s been a hectic end to summer, meteorologically speaking. Back-to-back hurricanes raked Texas, Florida and the Caribbean. A Labor Day heat wave broke temperature records in San Francisco and strained California’s electricity grid. Wildfires continue to rage in the Pacific Northwest. This string of extreme events has brought new focus to a familiar question: Is climate change to blame?...

2017-09-14. Cassini’s “Grand Finale” Will Be a Blaze of Glory.

posted Sep 21, 2017, 12:25 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Sep 21, 2017, 12:25 AM ]

By Lee Billings, Scientific American. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: The Cassini orbiter will burn out, but its legacy won’t fade away. ...For NASA’s Cassini orbiter—its fuel dwindling after 13 years exploring Saturn, along with the planet’s sprawling rings and dozens of icy moons—the end will come Friday at 7:55 A.M. Eastern time. That’s when mission planners project radio communications will be lost with the two-ton, bus-size spacecraft as it plunges into the giant planet’s turbulent atmosphere at more than 122,000 kilometers per hour. ...“We are concluding the longest, deepest, most comprehensive scientific exploration of a remote planetary system ever undertaken, a system so alien it might as well have been orbiting another star in another galaxy,” says Carolyn Porco, the planetary scientist who leads Cassini’s imaging team. “And we have been profoundly successful.”... See also The Cassini spacecraft crashed into Saturn, ending a successful 20-year mission by Sarah Kaplan and Cassini Vanishes Into Saturn, Its Mission Celebrated and Mourned, by Kenneth Chang

2017-09-13. Taking the Pulse of the Planet.

posted Sep 21, 2017, 12:15 AM by Alan Gould

By Lijing Cheng, Kevin E. Trenberth, John Fasullo, John Abraham, Tim P. Boyer, Karina von Schuckmann, and Jiang Zhu, Eos (AGU). For GSS Climate Change chapter 7. Excerpt: How fast is Earth warming? Ocean heat content and sea level rise measurements may provide a more reliable answer than atmospheric measurements. Humans have released carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in sufficient quantity to change the composition of the atmosphere (Figure 1). The result is an accumulation of heat in Earth’s system, commonly referred to as global warming. Earth’s climate has responded to this influx of heat through higher temperatures in the atmosphere, land, and ocean. This warming, in turn, has melted ice, raised sea levels, and increased the frequency of extreme weather events: heat waves and heavy rains, for example. The results of these weather events include wildfires and flooding, among other things [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013]. Decision-makers, scientists, and the general public are faced with critical questions: How fast is Earth’s system accumulating heat, and how much will it warm in the future as human activities continue to emit greenhouse gases? ...ocean measurements could provide vital signs for the health of the planet. ...we suggest that scientists and modelers who seek global warming signals should track how much heat the ocean is storing at any given time, termed global ocean heat content (OHC), as well as sea level rise (SLR). Similar to SLR, OHC has a very high signal-to-noise ratio; that is, it clearly shows the effects of climate change distinct from natural variability....

2017-09-13. Climate Change Threatens the World’s Parasites (That’s Not Good).

posted Sep 21, 2017, 12:10 AM by Alan Gould

By Carl Zimmer, The New York Times. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 8 and Climate Change Chapter 8. Excerpt: ...Recently, scientists carried out the first large-scale study of what climate change may do to the world’s much-loathed parasites. The team came to a startling conclusion: as many as one in three parasite species may face extinction in the next century. As global warming raises the planet’s temperature, the researchers found, many species will lose territory in which to survive. Some of their hosts will be lost, too. “It still absolutely blows me away,” said Colin J. Carlson, lead author of the study and a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. ...Researchers have begun carefully studying the roles that parasites play. They make up the majority of the biomass in some ecosystems, outweighing predators sharing their environments by a factor of 20 to 1....

2017-09-07. Scientists say decline in monarch butterflies brings risk of extinction.

posted Sep 10, 2017, 9:55 PM by Alan Gould

By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1. Excerpt: Western monarch butterflies, which crowd trees along the California coast every winter and flush them with color, have declined so dramatically since the 1980s that the species will likely go extinct in the next few decades if nothing is done, scientists said Thursday in a population study of the treasured creatures. ...according to the report published in the journal Biological Conservation. “We believe there were at least 10 million butterflies in many of the years during the 1980s,” said Cheryl Schultz, an associate professor of biological sciences at Washington State University and the lead author of the study. “It’s gone down from 10 million to 300,000. That’s why we were so shocked. We did not expect it to be that sharp of a decline.” ...The decline is similar to that seen among the more abundant eastern monarchs, which spend their winters in Mexico before heading back across the United States and settling as far north as Canada. ...Eastern monarchs have declined more than 90 percent since 1996, when scientists estimated there were 1 billion nesting in the trees. Last winter, 78 million eastern monarchs were counted in Mexico, compared with 100 million the year before....

2017-09-07. Is climate change wreaking weather havoc? Evolving science seeks answers.

posted Sep 10, 2017, 9:48 PM by Alan Gould

By Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: ...There’s still no simple answer to the question, “Was that hurricane caused by climate change?” But scientists can now often say whether an event was more likely, and more severe, due to the warming planet. A team of experts at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, among the pioneers of the evolving science of extreme event attribution, estimated that human-caused climate change probably raised temperatures in California by as much as 4 degrees last week. Similar accounting has been done for the California drought and strings of wildfires across the West, as well as the catastrophic hurricanes Harvey and Irma, whose devastation continues to unfold. ...While scientists can’t blame climate change for causing any one weather system, studies have found that past heat waves in both the U.S. and abroad were so unlikely in the absence of global warming that there was little other explanation for what drove them. Eventually, the research could find that climate change is the primary engine behind some disasters. ...“Around 2000 or so, you mostly would have heard from the scientific community that we can’t draw any connection between global warming and any extreme event,” Diffenbaugh said. “What has happened since, particularly in the past five years, is an explosion of research by multiple groups that are working very hard to pose and test hypotheses of how global warming is possibly influencing individual events.”...

2017-09-05. Why Are Arctic Rivers Rising in Winter?

posted Sep 10, 2017, 9:45 PM by Alan Gould

By Emily Underwood, Eos/AGU. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Increased glacial melt is boosting winter streamflows by filling aquifers, a new study on an Alaskan river suggests. Alaska’s glacier-fed, braided Tanana River is home to some of the world’s highest-quality salmon fisheries, which have provided sustenance for humans for nearly 12,000 years. Like many Arctic rivers, however, the Tanana and its tributaries are transforming because of rising global temperatures. One prominent change in recent decades is a steady rise in Arctic rivers’ winter flow, which has long puzzled researchers because there is no commensurate increase in precipitation in the Tanana River watershed. Now, a new study suggests that melting glaciers may drive this increased flow by amplifying headwater runoff, the water that drains the mountain region, which is partly lost to the underlying aquifer. In turn, the aquifer feeds the Tanana River year-round. Increased aquifer recharge due to glacier-fed stream corridors may also degrade permafrost from below, further amplifying the seasonal aquifer storage capacity and therefore lowland winter flows....

2017-09-05. Why eye-popping whale shows off the California coast are the new normal.

posted Sep 5, 2017, 8:28 PM by Alan Gould

By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1. Excerpt: Humpbacks have put on a show this summer inside and outside the Golden Gate — flopping around, waving their flukes and leaping out of the water — a bonanza for whale watchers in tour boats and on dry land that scientists say will remain a regular thing. The ballet of the behemoths, far from a one-time event, is the result of the humpbacks recovering from near-extinction thanks to an international whaling ban, intense conservation and protection of their breeding grounds. John Calambokidis, a senior research biologist for the nonprofit Cascadia Research Collective, said the giant cetaceans are swimming off the coast of California in numbers equal to their historic population and extending their range into places where they lived long ago. “Their numbers reached carrying capacity in the last five years, and that’s when sightings in unusual areas began to occur,” said Calambokidis, who has been studying humpback and blue whales for 35 years....

2017-08-31. Big Space Rock to Pass near Earth on Friday.

posted Sep 3, 2017, 12:14 AM by Alan Gould

By Katherine Kornei, Eos/AGU. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 1. Excerpt: An asteroid named for Florence Nightingale will make its closest approach to our planet since 1890 but will remain a safe distance away. In the roughly 2 decades that scientists have systematically tracked asteroids speeding past Earth, never before has one so large come so close. On Friday, an asteroid called Florence will zip by our planet just 7 million kilometers away, or about 18 times the Earth–Moon distance, according to NASA. Many other asteroids have come closer, but none was as big as Florence, which measures about 4 kilometers in diameter. ...Researchers will also be using NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar facility in California’s Mojave Desert to determine whether Florence has a natural satellite of its own, a moon. Fifteen percent of asteroids have moons, Mainzer noted, and finding a moon orbiting Florence would make it possible to calculate the asteroid’s mass....

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