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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

2016-11-29. A Wrenching Choice for Alaska Towns in the Path of Climate Change.

posted Nov 30, 2016, 1:40 PM by Alan Gould

Text by ERICA GOOD, Photographs and video by JOSH HANER, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: ...Laid out on a narrow spit of sand between the Tagoomenik River and the Bering Sea, [Shaktoolik] the village of 250 or so people is facing an imminent threat from increased flooding and erosion, signs of a changing climate. With its proximity to the Arctic, Alaska is warming about twice as fast as the rest of the United States and the state is heading for the warmest year on record. The government has identified at least 31 Alaskan towns and cities at imminent risk of destruction, with Shaktoolik ranking among the top four. Some villages, climate change experts predict, will be uninhabitable by 2050, their residents joining a flow of climate refugees around the globe, in Bolivia, China, Niger and other countries....

2016-11-28. Great Barrier Reef suffered worst bleaching on record in 2016, report finds.

posted Nov 30, 2016, 1:37 PM by Alan Gould

By Hywel Griffith, BBC News, Sydney. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7 and Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Higher water temperatures in 2016 caused the worst destruction of corals ever recorded on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a study has found. Some 67% of corals died in the reef's worst-hit northern section, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies report said. The situation was better in the central section, where 6% perished, while the southern reef is in good health. ...This year's mass bleaching was the worst-ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef, following two previous events in 1998 and 2002. Professor Hughes is certain that the increased water temperature is the result of carbon emissions, and warns that climate change could bring annual bleaching within 20 years. "Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef," he said....

2016-11-25. An Ice Sheet the Size of New Mexico Hidden in Martian Crater.

posted Nov 30, 2016, 1:31 PM by Alan Gould

By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: An ice sheet with more water than Lake Superior may slake the thirst of future astronauts living on Mars. Using radar soundings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, scientists probed what lies in Utopia Planitia, a 2,000-mile-wide basin within an ancient impact crater. For decades, the region looked intriguing because of polygonal cracking and scalloped depressions in the landscape. In places on Earth like the Canadian Arctic, patterns like these arise from ice beneath the surface. The ground cracks as ice underneath expands and contracts with the changing temperatures; the scallops, as if carved by an ice cream scoop, are places where the surface sinks as the ice melts. “We’d say, ‘It looks like there’s ground ice there,’” Cassie Stuurman, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, said about Utopia Planitia. “What we haven’t known is how much is there.”n ...Ms. Stuurman, the lead author of an article in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that described the findings, said the radar reflections revealed that the ice sheet, ranging in thickness from 260 to 560 feet, covered an area larger than New Mexico.  ...Water ice is plentiful at the Martian poles, but Utopia Planitia might be a more attractive landing site for future astronauts, because it is in the more temperate mid-northern latitudes....

2016-11-18. They may save us yet: Scientists found a way to turn our carbon emissions into rock.

posted Nov 30, 2016, 1:28 PM by Alan Gould

By Chris Mooney, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10. Excerpt: Earlier this year, a project in Iceland reported an apparent breakthrough in the safe underground storage of the principal greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide — an option likely to be necessary if we’re to solve our global warming problem. The Carbfix project, run by a leading Icelandic producer of geothermal power, Reykjavik Energy, announced that it had successfully injected 250 tons of carbon dioxide, dissolved in water, into an underground repository of volcanic rocks called basalts — and that the carbon carbon dioxide ...had apparently become one with the basalt, undergoing a fast chemical reaction and forming a type of rock called a carbonate in two years’ time. ...And now, a group of American researchers has taken the science even farther.... Peter McGrail of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a branch of the Department of Energy, and his colleagues were also working on storing carbon dioxide actual injection, in this case 1253 meters deep into basalts from the Columbia River region of Washington State. In their results reported Friday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, ...after two years had passed, they took core samples of the rocks, using a battery of tests to prove definitively that the CO2 had indeed turned into a carbonate rock called ankerite, comprised of calcium, carbon, oxygen, iron, magnesium, and manganese. ...they looked at the ratio of two “isotopes,” or slight variants, of carbon to one another. ...showing a signature that matched up with the fossil fuel-based carbon dioxide that had originally been pumped into the earth. “There is no other possible explanation,” said McGrail. “The only way that those carbonates had formed, it had to come from the CO2 that we injected.”....

2016-11-03. Batteries That Make Use of Solar Power, Even in the Dark.

posted Nov 28, 2016, 8:42 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Nov 28, 2016, 8:43 AM ]

By Stanley Reed, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: HARTWELL, ENGLAND — A new cash crop has sprung up on Nicholas Beatty’s enchanting farm near here. Rows of gray solar panels range over about 25 acres, turning sunlight into electricity, as dog-size muntjac deer hop by. The panels themselves, trouble-free money earners that feed into the electric grid, are no longer unusual on farms in Britain or other countries. What’s new in Mr. Beatty’s field is a hulking 40-foot-long shipping container. Stacked inside, in what look like drawers, are about 200 lithium-ion cells that make up a battery large enough to store a substantial portion of the electricity the solar farm puts out. ...Power prices in Britain and elsewhere rise and fall, sometimes strikingly, during the day and over the year, depending on the supply and demand. By storing power in the battery, Mr. Beatty can feed it into the grid when prices are high. ...Mr. Beatty is one of many entrepreneurs and businesses trying to play the fast-shifting electric power landscape. The global effort to combat climate change is forcing what had been an old-line business to evolve. Polluting, coal-fired power stations are closing, while clean energy sources like wind and solar are growing fast....

2016-11-24. Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate.

posted Nov 25, 2016, 11:31 AM by Alan Gould

By Ian Urbina, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: MIAMI — Real estate agents looking to sell coastal properties usually focus on one thing: how close the home is to the water’s edge. But buyers are increasingly asking instead how far back it is from the waterline. How many feet above sea level? Is it fortified against storm surges? ...Rising sea levels are changing the way people think about waterfront real estate. Though demand remains strong and developers continue to build near the water in many coastal cities, homeowners across the nation are slowly growing wary of buying property in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. A warming planet has already forced a number of industries — coal, oil, agriculture and utilities among them — to account for potential future costs of a changed climate. The real estate industry, particularly along the vulnerable coastlines, is slowly awakening to the need to factor in the risks of catastrophic damage from climate change, including that wrought by rising seas and storm-driven flooding.  But many economists say that this reckoning needs to happen much faster and that home buyers urgently need to be better informed. Some analysts say the economic impact of a collapse in the waterfront property market could surpass that of the bursting dot-com and real estate bubbles of 2000 and 2008....

2016-11-21. Largest Ever U.S. Shale Oil Deposit Identified in Texas.

posted Nov 25, 2016, 11:22 AM by Alan Gould

By Aaron Sidder, Earth & Space News (EoS), AGU. For GSS Energy Use chapter 3 and Climate Change chapter 10. Excerpt: As global oil prices remain mired in their worst downturn in decades, news from western Texas suggests that petroleum fortunes continue to smile on the region. In its first assessment in nearly a decade of the Permian Basin, a large sedimentary basin underlying parts of Texas and New Mexico, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has determined that a vast deposit of shale there, known as the Wolfcamp shale, contains much more oil than previously estimated. ...the region contains what is estimated to be the largest amount of continuous oil—meaning oil accessible only by means of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—ever assessed in the United States. The agency estimated the Wolfcamp shale contains 20 billion barrels (3.2 billion cubic meters) of oil that can be recovered using today’s technology. That’s nearly 3 times as much recoverable oil as estimated in the Bakken–Three Forks accumulation in North Dakota.  ...unconventional continuous oil accumulations commonly occur in shale reservoirs or coal beds. In these accumulations, the oil has dispersed throughout the geologic formation. ...The Wolfcamp shale also contains an estimated 16 trillion cubic feet (453 billion cubic meters) of associated natural gas and 1.6 billion barrels (245 million cubic meters) of natural gas liquids, according to USGS. ...In a statement to Eos, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association commented that the USGS estimate was exciting but was more of a confirmation than a new story. ...“The fact that this is the largest assessment of continuous oil we have ever done just goes to show that, even in areas that have produced billions of barrels of oil, there is still the potential to find billions more.” The USGS assessment, although large, may not capture the full extent of the Wolfcamp resource. Because well production data inform so much of the estimate, the estimated resource could grow even larger in time as new wells provide more data, Schenk said....

2016-11-18. Fracking can prime faults for subsequent quakes.

posted Nov 20, 2016, 5:26 PM by Alan Gould

By Ian Randall, Science. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 2 and Energy Use chapter 3. Excerpt: Hydraulic fracturing in western Canada can prime faults for earthquakes that strike months after fracking ceases, reports a new study published this week in Science. Although it has long been known that the injection of wastewater into disposal wells can trigger earthquakes by increasing pore pressure and destabilizing fault lines, rarely has fracking itself been identified as the source of tremors. ...Looking at seismic records near Fox Creek, in northwest Alberta, where there are six drilling sites, researchers found an intermittent set of induced earthquakes between December 2014 and March 2015, clustered around fracking operations. The majority of seismicity occurred during fracking as the elastic response of the rock caused mounting stress. However the largest quake, which had a magnitude of 3.9, struck on 23 January 2015—2 weeks after fracking had been completed. ...In the future, they say, drillers should take account of such risks, especially when they fail to recover fracking fluids....

2016-11-17. Updated: Drilling of dinosaur-killing impact crater explains buried circular hills.

posted Nov 20, 2016, 5:22 PM by Alan Gould

By Eric Hand, Science. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 1 and Life andClimate chapter 9. Excerpt: Today, scientists published their first results from a drilling expedition into Chicxulub crater, the buried remnants of an asteroid impact off the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Their discovery of shocked, granite rocks from deep in the crust placed “out of order” on top of sedimentary rocks validates the dynamic collapse theory of formation for Chicxulub’s peak ring, the scientists says. Chicxulub is the only well-preserved crater on Earth with a peak ring, but they abound elsewhere in the inner solar system. Last month, scientists using instruments on a NASA lunar mission showed that the peak rings within the Orientale impact basin were likely to have formed in a similar way as at Chicxulub....

2016-11-15. European diseases left a genetic mark on Native Americans.

posted Nov 20, 2016, 5:19 PM by Alan Gould

By Michael Price, Science. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 4. Excerpt: When the indigenous peoples of the Americas encountered European settlers in the 15th century, they faced people with wildly different religions, customs, and—tragically—diseases; the encounters wiped out large swaths of indigenous populations within decades. Now, researchers have found that these diseases have also left their mark on modern-day populations: A new study suggests that infectious diseases brought by Europeans, from smallpox to measles, have molded the immune systems of today’s indigenous Americans, down to the genetic level....

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