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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

2015-11-20. Half of all tree species in Amazon 'face extinction'.

posted Nov 25, 2015, 9:11 AM by Alan Gould

By Helen Briggs, BBC News. For GSS A New World View chapter 5. Excerpt: ...According to new data, up to 57% of all Amazonian trees may already fit the criteria of being globally threatened. ...Forest cover in the Amazon has been shrinking for decades, but little is known about the impact on individual plant species. The trees at risk include iconic species like the Brazil nut tree, food crops such as cacao, the source of chocolate, as well as rare trees that are almost unknown to science. The research, published in the journal, Science Advances, compared data from almost 1,500 forest plots with maps of current and predicted forest loss to estimate how many tree species have been lost and how many are likely to disappear by the middle of the century. ...It found that the Amazon - the world's most diverse forest - could be home to more than 15,000 tree species. Of these, between 36% and 57% are likely to qualify as being globally threatened under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species criteria....

2015-11-23. U.S. government agencies to slash greenhouse gas emissions 41.8 percent.

posted Nov 25, 2015, 9:04 AM by Alan Gould

By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Alan Crosby, Reuters. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: U.S. federal agencies will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their operations to 41.8 percent below 2008 levels by 2025, the White House announced on Monday. The announcement comes one week before nearly 200 countries meet in Paris to negotiate a United Nations climate change pact and eight months after President Barack Obama ordered agencies to cut its emissions by at least 40 percent by 2025. The cuts will come from across the government's 360,000 buildings, 650,000 vehicles and from its extensive supply chain. "Federal agencies have developed targeted strategies to cut their GHG emissions by reducing energy use in their buildings, making their vehicles more efficient, using clean energy sources like wind and solar, and employing energy savings performance contracts," the White House said. ...The federal government is the largest energy consumer in the United States....

2015-11-12. Better Forecasting for the Next Volcanic Eruption.

posted Nov 19, 2015, 12:24 PM by Alan Gould

By Valerio Acocella and Giovanni Chiodini. EoS Earth & Space Science News, AGU. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 2. Excerpt: The Eruptive Precursors project in Campi Flegrei, Italy, seeks to understand conditions leading to caldera eruptions....

2015-11-12. The Dwarf Planet That Came in from the Cold—Maybe.

posted Nov 19, 2015, 12:20 PM by Alan Gould

By Ron Cowen, EoS, Earth & Space Science News, AGU. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: ...The presence of ammonia-rich clay on much of the surface of Ceres suggests that this dwarf planet—the largest object in the asteroid belt—may have formed far out in the solar system, then wandered in....

2015-11-06. White House Plan Focuses on Hazards from Solar Storms.

posted Nov 19, 2015, 12:09 PM by Alan Gould

By Randy Showstack, EoS Earth &  Space Science News, AGU. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 4. Excerpt: Space weather has its day in the Sun, with the administration issuing a new strategy and action plan to increase protection from damaging solar emissions. ...Space weather events occur when outbursts from the Sun, such as solar flares, solar energetic particles, and coronal mass ejections, collide with Earth’s magnetic field. Although many of these events are harmless, some are powerful enough to cause havoc by disrupting critical technology. Speakers at the forum referred to a 1989 geomagnetic storm that cut electricity to 6 million Canadians for 9 hours and to the 1859 “Carrington” event, the largest documented series of geomagnetic storms from the Sun to have struck Earth....

2015-11-16. Celebrating United Nations World Toilet Day.

posted Nov 19, 2015, 12:02 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Nov 19, 2015, 12:03 PM ]

By Cathy Cockrell, UC Berkeley News Center. For GSS Population Growth chapter 5. Excerpt: ...the annual international observance dedicated to the toilet, meant to draw attention to the worldwide sanitation picture and its impact on health, safety and the environment. The facts may be startling to those who enjoy modern sanitation: An estimated 2.4 billion people worldwide (about one in three) lack access to a facility that at least separates human excrement from human contact. More than a billion relieve themselves on the ground or into open bodies of water. Nearly a thousand children a day die of diarrhea related to water, sanitation or hygiene. ...William Tarpeh...’s using new technical processes to extract nitrogen from urine to create a nutrient-rich fertilizer.  ...Emily Woods is Tarpeh’s counterpart on the feces side of sanitation. A mechanical engineering grad student at Berkeley, she’s also co-founder of Sanivation, a young business venture that has begun converting human feces into cooking charcoal in a poor community in Kenya........

2015-11-17. Billions of People Depend on Water From Shrinking Snowpacks.

posted Nov 17, 2015, 10:45 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Nov 17, 2015, 10:46 AM ]

By SINDYA N. BHANOO, the New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Snowpacks are a vital source of water for humans, but they may shrink in some regions as the climate warms. A new study estimates how changes in s[n]owfall will affect water supplies. Justin S. Mankin, an earth scientist at Columbia University, and his colleagues analyzed 421 drainage basins in the Northern Hemisphere that depend on rainfall and snowmelt, and then combined the data with several different climate models. They found that 97 basins, currently serving two billion people, depend heavily on snowmelt. The scientists calculated that the likelihood the basins would receive less snow in the coming century was 67 percent. ...“Water managers need to prepare themselves for the worst outcome,” Dr. Mankin said. The public can help mitigate threats to snowpacks by limiting contributions of greenhouse gas emissions, he added....

2015-11-12. The Secrets in Greenland’s Ice Sheet.

posted Nov 16, 2015, 9:38 AM by Alan Gould

By Jon Gertner, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: ...If the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica were to collapse and melt entirely, the result would be a sea-­level rise of 200 feet or so. This number, though fearsome, is not especially helpful to anyone but Hollywood screenwriters: No scientist believes that all that ice will slide into the oceans soon. During the last year, however, a small contingent of researchers has begun to consider whether sea-­level-­rise projections, increased by the recent activity of collapsing glaciers on the periphery of the ice sheets, point toward a potential catastrophe. It would not take 200 feet to drown New Orleans. Or New York. A mere five or 10 feet worth of sea-­level rise due to icebergs, and a few powerful storm surges, would probably suffice. ...When it comes to understanding the implications of ice-­sheet collapse, the speed of that breakdown is everything. It could mean sea levels that rise slowly and steadily, perhaps a foot or two per century, which might allow coastal communities to adapt and adjust. Or it could mean levels that rise at an accelerating pace, perhaps five feet or more per century — forcing the evacuation of the earth’s great coastal cities and producing millions of refugees and almost unimaginable financial costs. The difference between slowly and rapidly is a crucial distinction that one scientist recently described to me as ‘‘the trillion-­dollar question.’’....

2015-11-12. NASA's Carbon and Climate campaign.

posted Nov 13, 2015, 12:16 PM by Alan Gould Release 15-219. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: ...ongoing analysis of the first year-plus of satellite data from NASA’s recently launched Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 -- the agency’s first satellite designed to measure carbon dioxide from the top of Earth’s atmosphere to its surface....  See also:

2015-10-22. Hubble spies Big Bang frontiers.

posted Nov 13, 2015, 10:09 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Nov 13, 2015, 10:16 AM ]

NASA heic1523 — Science Release. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 9. Excerpt: Observations by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have taken advantage of gravitational lensing to reveal the largest sample of the faintest and earliest known galaxies in the Universe. Some of these galaxies formed just 600 million years after the Big Bang and are fainter than any other galaxy yet uncovered by Hubble. ...light from these galaxies took over 12 billion years to reach the telescope, allowing the astronomers to look back in time when the universe was still very young. ...Johan Richard from the Observatoire de Lyon, France, points out, “The faintest galaxies detected in these Hubble observations are fainter than any other yet uncovered in the deepest Hubble observations.” ...the team discovered that the accumulated light emitted by these galaxies could have played a major role in one of the most mysterious periods of the Universe’s early history — the epoch of reionisation. Reionisation started when the thick fog of hydrogen gas that cloaked the early Universe began to clear. Ultraviolet light was now able to travel over larger distances without being blocked and the Universe became transparent to ultraviolet light.... See also: Hubble Uncovers Fading Cinders of Some of Our Galaxy's Earliest Homesteaders (2015 Nov 5; HubbleSite News Release Number: STScI-2015-38)

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