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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

2017-05-24. Fig Leaves Are Out. What to Wear to Be Kind to the Planet?

posted by Alan Gould

By Tatiana Schossberg, The New York Times. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7. Excerpt: In the Garden of Eden, figuring out what to wear was easy and the fig leaves were environmentally friendly. Today, it’s much harder to find clothes that don’t have some kind of negative impact on the planet. Textile manufacturers use complicated chemical and industrial processes to make clothing materials, from cotton to synthetic fibers. And while the environmental consequences aren’t always clear, consumption is growing. ...Buying less is the easiest way to make a difference. But when you do need new clothes, you will usually be choosing among four major types of fibers: oil-based synthetics, cotton, rayon and wool. Their environmental trade-offs are so varied that a definitive ranking would be impossible. But here’s what we know, so you can make more informed decisions. ...Polyester, one of the most common fibers, is a plastic derived from crude oil. ... early research showed that plastic fibers are among the most abundant environmental debris in the world ...cotton production still uses just over 2 percent of the world’s arable land and accounts for about 3 percent of global water use, according to the United Nations. ...Most rayon today is produced as viscose rayon, which is treated with chemicals, including carbon disulfide...[that] can cause serious health problems for rayon workers, including Parkinson’s disease, premature heart attack and strokeCotton also requires pesticides. ...Viscose rayon is often made from bamboo. In Indonesia and other areas, producers are cutting down old-growth forests to plant bamboo for rayon.... “The best thing we can all do is buy less and wear more”....

2017-05-024. Mapping 50 Years of Melting Ice in Glacier National Park.

posted by Alan Gould

By Nadja Popovich, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers. The flowing sheets of ice scattered throughout the Montana park shrank by more than a third between 1966 and 2015, according to new data from the United States Geological Survey and Portland State University. Using aerial and satellite imagery, researchers traced the footprints of 39 named glaciers in the park and surrounding national forest. They found that 10 had lost more than half their area over 50 years.... [see maps of glacier ice extent]

2017-05-24. Scientists really aren’t the best champions of climate science.

posted May 24, 2017, 4:27 PM by Alan Gould

By Vox and the Climate Lab of the University of California. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10. Video #3 in a series: Facts and data alone won’t inspire people to take action in the fight against global warming. So what will? ....

2017-05-10. Waves of lava seen in Io’s largest volcanic crater.

posted May 20, 2017, 3:34 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated May 20, 2017, 3:45 PM by Alan Gould ]

By Robert Sanders, Media relations, UC Berkeley News. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: Taking advantage of a rare orbital alignment between two of Jupiter’s moons, Io and Europa, researchers have obtained an exceptionally detailed map of the largest lava lake on Io, the most volcanically active body in the solar system. ...Overturning lava is a popular explanation for the periodic brightening and dimming of the hot spot, called Loki Patera after the Norse god. (A patera is a bowl-shaped volcanic crater.) The most active volcanic site on Io, which itself is the most volcanically active body in the solar system, Loki Patera is about 200 kilometers (127 miles) across. The hot region of the patera has a surface area of 21,500 square kilometers, larger than Lake Ontario. Earthbound astronomers first noticed Io’s changing brightness in the 1970s, but only when the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft flew by in 1979 did it become clear that this was because of volcanic eruptions on the surface. Despite highly detailed images from NASA’s Galileo mission in the late 1990s and early 2000s, astronomers continue to debate whether the brightenings at Loki Patera – which occur every 400 to 600 days – are due to overturning lava in a massive lava lake, or periodic eruptions that spread lava flows over a large area....

2017-05-18. State hits renewable record.

posted May 20, 2017, 2:23 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated May 20, 2017, 2:23 PM ]

By Dominic Fracassa, San Francisco Chronicle. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: ...Early Saturday afternoon, renewable sources produced a record 67.2 percent of the electricity on the portion of the state’s power grid controlled by the California Independent System Operator. That figure does not include large hydropower facilities, which added another 13.5 percent. Based in Folsom, the ISO runs 80 percent of the state’s grid. More than half of the renewable energy flowing across the grid at that moment on Saturday came from large solar facilities and wind farms. The ISO’s numbers do not even account for electricity from rooftop solar arrays. ...“The fact that the grid can handle 67 percent renewable power from multiple sources — it’s a great moment, and it shows the potential we have,” said Sachu Constantine, the director of policy at the Center for Sustainable Energy, a nonprofit clean energy advisory firm in Berkeley. ...California law requires utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, rising to 50 percent by 2030. Last year, California's three large electric utilities collectively got 32.3 percent of their electricity from renewables. (Neither the state requirement nor the 2016 figure includes large hydropower facilities.)...

2017-05-18. Humans Accidentally Made a Space Cocoon For Ourselves Out of Radio Waves.

posted May 18, 2017, 3:08 PM by Alan Gould

By Becky Ferreira for Motherboard. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 4. Excerpt: Humans have accidentally created a protective bubble around Earth by using very low frequency (VLF) radio transmissions to contact submarines in the ocean. It sounds nuts, but according to recent research published in Space Science Reviews, underwater communication through VLF channels has an outer space dimension. ...Satellites in certain high-altitude orbits, such as NASA's particle-watching Van Allen Probes, have observed these VLF ripples creating an "impenetrable boundary," a phrase coined by study co-author Dan Baker, director of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. This doesn't mean impenetrable to spacecraft or asteroids, per se, but rather to potentially harmful particle showers created by turbulent space weather. ...The boundary extends out to the inner edge of the Van Allen radiation belts, which are bands of charged particles created from the clash of the solar wind against Earth's magnetic field. The VLF bubble might actually be pushing the Van Allen belts farther into space, suggests Baker, considering that they have receded farther from Earth since the 1960s, when VLF use was not as widespread....

2017-02-17. How Space Weather Can Influence Elections on Earth.

posted May 18, 2017, 3:02 PM by Alan Gould

By Becky Ferreira for Motherboard. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 4. Excerpt: The real alien voter fraud is genuinely coming from outside our planet. ...The Sun, which is emphatically not registered to vote, dabbles in casting ballots on Earth, according to a presentation given by Bharat Bhuva, a professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University, on Friday morning at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston. Bhuva specializes in assessing the risk of space weather damaging electrical systems on and around Earth, including electronic voting systems. He brought up one instance of a federal election held in the city of Schaerbeek, Belgium in 2003, in which one of the candidates ended up with 4,096 extra votes. "Everything was going fine, but then suddenly, there were an additional 4,000 votes cast [...] People were surprised and asked, 'how did this happen?'" The culprit was not voter fraud or hacked machines. It was most likely a single event upset (SEU), a term describing the fallout of an ionizing particle bouncing off a vulnerable node in the machine's register, causing it to flip a bit, and log the additional votes. The Sun may not have been the direct source of the particle—cosmic rays from outside the solar system are also in the mix—but solar-influenced space weather certainly contributes to these SEUs....

2017-05-17. The fight to rethink (and reinvent) nuclear power.

posted May 17, 2017, 4:32 PM by Alan Gould

By Vox and the Climate Lab of the University of California. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10. Video #5 in a series: New nuclear energy technology has come a long way - but can we get over our fears?....

2017-05-10. Where and How Can We Find New Sources of Oil and Gas?

posted May 13, 2017, 7:09 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated May 20, 2017, 3:47 PM ]

By Said Gaci and Olga Hachayon, Earth & Space Science News (EoS; AGU). For GSS Energy Use chapter 3. Excerpt: The editors of a new book on oil and gas exploration describe developments in methods for identifying oil and gas fields, and for making accurate predictions about their extractive potential. ...“Seismic prospecting” is the most widely used geophysical technique in hydrocarbon exploration. It sends artificially created elastic oscillations (seismic waves) though the rock strata which can create a “map” of the structure of deposits. “Well logging” is another commonly used method that consists of making a detailed record of rock and fluid properties to find hydrocarbon zones in the geological formations crossed by a borehole. “Gravity surveying” measures spatial variations in the Earth’s gravitational field which originated from differences in the density of sub-surface rocks. Oil- or gas-bearing rocks have lower density than similar water-containing rocks thus the task of geoscientists is to find locations with abnormally low gravity. Meanwhile, “magnetic prospecting” measures the Earth’s magnetic field in the different magnetic conductivity of rocks. Airborne magnetic surveying enables the identification of anticlines which are natural geological traps for migrating hydrocarbons at large depths. Another method is “geochemical prospecting” which is used to look for hydrocarbon deposits. This is based on analyses of the chemical composition of underground water and the content of dissolved gases and organic matters within it. Concentration of these components in water increases as it approaches the deposit....

2017-05-10. The Harmony That Keeps Trappist-1’s 7 Earth-size Worlds From Colliding.

posted May 11, 2017, 11:24 AM by Alan Gould

By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 8. Excerpt: In February, astronomers announced the discovery of a nearby star with seven Earth-size planets, and at least some of the planets seemed to be in a zone that could provide cozy conditions for life. The finding of these planets circling the star Trappist-1 40 light-years away came with a bit of mystery. The orbits of the planets are packed tightly, and computer calculations by the discoverers suggested that the gravitational jostling would send the planets colliding with each other or flying apart, some to deep space, others spiraling into the star and destruction. Now new research provides an explanation for the dynamics of how this planetary system could have formed and remained in stable harmony over billions of years. ...The scientist in the office next door to Dr. Tamayo ...Matt Russo, an astrophysicist who is also a musician, turned to Dr. Tamayo’s computer simulations for help turning the orbits into notes, and they have produced a sort of music of the spheres for the 21st century. ...Since the Trappist-1 planets are so close to their star, they orbit quickly, and their “year” — the time to complete one orbit — ranges from 1.5 days to 19 days. The original discoverers noted that those orbits were almost exactly in what scientists call “resonance.” ...In more than 300 computer runs, each simulating five million years, the vast majority stayed stable, Dr. Tamayo said....  See also Youtube video - TRAPPIST Sounds: TRAPPIST-1 Planetary System Translated Directly Into Music.

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