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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
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Latest News and Updates

2014-08-17. Cassini Saturn mission Ten Year Top Science

posted Aug 28, 2014, 5:28 AM by Alan Gould

2014-08-14. NASA to Investigate Climate Impacts of Arctic Sea Ice Loss.

posted Aug 27, 2014, 12:26 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: A new NASA field campaign will begin flights over the Arctic this summer to study the effect of sea ice retreat on Arctic climate. The Arctic Radiation IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE) will conduct research flights Aug. 28 through Oct. 1, covering the peak of summer sea ice melt. ARISE is NASA's first Arctic airborne campaign designed to take simultaneous measurements of ice, clouds and the levels of incoming and outgoing radiation, the balance of which determines the degree of climate warming.  ..."A wild card in what's happening in the Arctic is clouds and how changes in clouds, due to changing sea-ice conditions, enhance or offset warming," said Bill Smith, ARISE principal investigator at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. ..."The clouds and surface conditions over the Arctic as we observe them from satellites are very complex," Smith said. "We need more information to understand how to better interpret the satellite measurements, and an aircraft can help with that."... NASA RELEASE 14-218.

2014-07-28. Cassini Spacecraft Reveals 101 Geysers and more on Icy Saturn Moon.

posted Aug 25, 2014, 11:17 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. NASA RELEASE 14-203. Excerpt: Scientists using mission data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have identified 101 distinct geysers erupting on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus.  Their analysis suggests it is possible for liquid water to reach from the moon’s underground sea all the way to its surface. ...After the first sighting of the geysers in 2005, scientists suspected repeated flexing of Enceladus by Saturn’s tides as the moon orbits the planet had something to do with their behavior.  ...Individual geysers were found to coincide with small-scale hot spots, only a few dozen feet (or tens of meters) across, which were too small to be produced by frictional heating, but the right size to be the result of condensation of vapor on the near-surface walls of the fractures. ...“Once we had these results in hand we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa,” said Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of the first paper. “It also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much deeper roots.” Additional details, images and an animation are available at: More information about Cassini is available at: ...

2014-07-24. Satellite Study Reveals Parched U.S. West Using Up Underground Water.

posted Aug 25, 2014, 10:41 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7. Excerpt: A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought. ...the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years. The research team used data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission [ and] to track changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which are related to changes in water amount on and below the surface. ...the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, ...about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) -- was from groundwater. ..."We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study's lead author. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."...  NASA RELEASE 14-200.

2014-07-23. A pause in global warming? Studies try to better explain what's happened.

posted Aug 15, 2014, 9:22 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Climate Change chapter 7. Excerpt: Any pause in global warming, such as it may have been during the first decade of the 21st century, might seem to be on its way out. Global average temperatures for May and June 2014 reached record levels of warmth. Last year ranked as somewhere between the second and sixth warmest on record globally, depending on the temperature records you pick. But if history is any guide, expect more pauses in the thermometer's climb toward a warmer world, thanks to the climate's natural variability. That's one implication of two recent studies exploring the pause with an eye toward testing the notions that global warming has ended, as some skeptics have asserted, and that fundamental problems with climate models prevented them from projecting the sudden slowdown in the rate of warming. ...For the skeptic community, "this is proof that global warming stopped and it's no longer a problem, so we don't need to worry about it," ...For scientists seeking to better understand how the climate system works, "it's a really compelling science problem,"  ...Modeling studies over the past several years have converged on natural variability as the most likely explanation for the hiatus in warming, with a decades-long cycle of warming and cooling of surface waters in the Pacific as the prime mover. ...Shaun Lovejoy, a physicist at McGill University in Montreal, looked at the question model-free by conducting a statistical analysis of measured temperatures going back to the 1880s as well as records reconstructed from natural stand-ins for thermometers going back as far as the 1500s. The goal was to answer a basic question: How unexpected are such hiatuses? Modelers were concluding that a hiatus "doesn't look that unlikely; it looks totally possible that it's natural," Dr. Lovejoy says. "But I actually tried to put a number on it, and the number in the end is that we expect such an event every 20 to 50 years.".... By Pete Spotts, The Christian Science Monitor.

2014-07-30. U.S. advances plan to reintroduce wild bison herds outside Yellowstone.

posted Aug 1, 2014, 3:32 PM by Alan Gould

For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 2. Excerpt: New herds of genetically pure wild bison may once again roam vast expanses of the American West where the iconic animal has been absent since the end of the 19th century, under a tentative plan federal officials advanced on Wednesday. The proposal, for which Yellowstone National Park officials have begun seeking public comment, is almost sure to draw staunch opposition from ranchers concerned about disease, competition for grass and property destruction from straying bison. Yellowstone is now home to more than 4,000 bison, or buffalo, constituting the bulk of the country's last pure-bred population of the animals. Dozens from the Yellowstone herd have been relocated to two Montana American Indian reservations in recent years. ...A recent U.S. Interior Department report on bison concluded they could potentially be reintroduced to swaths of public lands it manages in states such as Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska and South Dakota, without posing a risk to livestock. The chief concern is brucellosis, an infection that causes stillbirths in cows and may have been transmitted to roughly half the bison in Yellowstone from exposure to cattle. Park wildlife managers are eyeing a plan that would start by quarantining dozens of bison for several years to prevent them from contracting the disease. Those animals shown to be free of brucellosis could then be considered for relocation to establish controlled herds elsewhere, said David Hallac, chief of Yellowstone's science and research branch. ...Millions of the powerful, hump-shouldered animals once roamed the plains west of the Mississippi until systematic hunting drove their numbers to the fewer than 50 that found refuge in Yellowstone in the early 20th century.... By Laura Zuckerman, Reuters.

2014-07-25. What Do Chinese Dumplings Have to Do With Global Warming?

posted Jul 27, 2014, 4:09 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Jul 27, 2014, 4:09 AM ]

For GSS Population Growth chapter 6. Excerpt: ...Chen Zemin, the world’s first and only frozen-dumpling billionaire...named his fledgling dumpling company Sanquan, which is short for the “Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China” — the 1978 gathering that marked the country’s first steps toward the open market. ...When Chen founded Sanquan, fewer than one in 10 of his fellow citizens even owned a refrigerator. In the eastern megacities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, it wasn’t until the late 1980s — as electrical grids became more reliable and families had more disposable income — that refrigerators became a fixture of most homes. the 12 years between 1995 and 2007, China’s domestic refrigerator-ownership numbers have jumped to 95 percent from just 7 percent of urban families. ...China had 250 million cubic feet of refrigerated storage capacity in 2007; by 2017, the country is on track to have 20 times that. At five billion cubic feet, China will surpass even the United States, which has led the world in cold storage ever since artificial refrigeration was invented. And even that translates to only 3.7 cubic feet of cold storage per capita, or roughly a third of what Americans currently have — meaning that the Chinese refrigeration boom is only just beginning. This is not simply transforming how Chinese people grow, distribute and consume food. It also stands to become a formidable new factor in climate change; cooling is already responsible for 15 percent of all electricity consumption worldwide, and leaks of chemical refrigerants are a major source of greenhouse-gas pollution. Of all the shifts in lifestyle that threaten the planet right now, perhaps not one is as important as the changing way that Chinese people eat.... By Nicola Twilley, The New York Times.

2014-07. What seafood guzzles the most gas?

posted Jul 26, 2014, 6:40 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7, Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: ...diesel is the single largest expense for the fishing industry and its biggest source of greenhouse gases. Not all fish have the same carbon finprint, however, and a new study reveals which ones take the most fuel to catch. Robert Parker, a Ph.D. student at the University of Tasmania, Hobart, in Australia, and Peter Tyedmers, an ecological economist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, analyzed more than 1600 records of fuel use by fishing fleets worldwide. They ... reported online this month in Fish and Fisheries. 7. Sardines: 71 liters ...Icelandic herring and Peruvian anchovies are the least fuel-intensive industrial fisheries known, caught with just 8 liters of fuel per ton of fish. 6. Skipjack tuna: 434 liters ...5. Scallops: 525 liters ...4. North American salmon: 886 liters ...3. Pacific albacore: 1612 liters ...2. Sole: 2827 liters ...1. Shrimp and lobster: 2923 liters ...How does wild seafood compare with other kinds of animal protein? The median fuel use in the fisheries is 639 liters per ton. In terms of climate impact, that’s equivalent to a bit more than 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide emitted for each kilogram of seafood landed. Chicken and farmed salmon and trout are roughly the same, but beef is significantly higher at 10 kg of carbon dioxide per kg of live animal. “If you’re looking at having a green diet, you want to transition away from beef,” Parker says.... by Erik Stokstad, Science.

2014-07-23. Texas Is Wired for Wind Power, and More Farms Plug In.

posted Jul 24, 2014, 9:27 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Energy Use chapter 5. Excerpt: PANHANDLE, Tex. ...turning wind into electricity is one thing; moving the energy to a profitable market is another. For years, the wind industry has been hampered by such a severe lack of transmission lines that when the wind is strong, a local power surplus forces some machines to be shut down. Now, Texas is out to change that by conducting a vast experiment that might hold lessons for the rest of the United States. This year, a sprawling network of new high-voltage power lines was completed, tying the panhandle area and West Texas to the millions of customers around Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Houston. ...The project, its supporters say, is essential if states are ever to wean their reliance on fossil fuels and meet new federally mandated rules to reduce carbon emissions. ...By any standard, the scale is enormous. Anywhere else, a big transmission project is a few hundred miles long and costs a few hundred million dollars; this is a network of 3,600 miles built at a cost of $7 billion, which is more money than the whole country has spent on transmission in some recent years. Texas, ...lawmakers have ordered an “if-you-build-it, they-will-come” approach. And it is working. “We’ve built it and they’re marching this way,” said Warren Lasher, the director of system planning at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid operator, citing plans for new wind farms. Encouraged by the new power lines and by federal tax credits that were available only to projects that broke ground by the end of last year, developers had started work on 7,000 megawatts of capacity by the end of 2013. ...The new lines are meant to handle up to 18,000 megawatts — millions of households.  ...The Panhandle 1 and Panhandle 2 wind farms cover two-thirds of the width of Carson County.... By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times.

2014-07-23. China’s Energy Plans Will Worsen Climate Change, Greenpeace Says.

posted Jul 24, 2014, 9:14 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Jul 25, 2014, 8:16 AM by Alan Gould ]

For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: BEIJING — China’s plans for 50 coal gasification plants will produce an estimated 1.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year and contribute significantly to climate change, according to a report released Wednesday by Greenpeace East Asia. ...If China builds all 50 plants, the carbon dioxide they produce will equal about an eighth of China’s current total carbon dioxide emissions, which come mostly from coal-burning power plants and factories, the organization said.... By Edward Wong, The New York Times. See also article China’s Plan to Limit Coal Use Could Spur Consumption for Years.

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