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Complete Archive (organized by chapter for each book)
New World View
Climate Change
Life and Climate
Ozone
Losing Biodiversity
Energy Flow
Ecosystem Change
Population Growth
Energy Use
A Changing Cosmos
ABCs of Digital Earth Watch Software

Latest News and Updates

2017-07-17. How a Warming Climate Will Trouble Air Travel.

posted Jul 18, 2017, 10:25 PM by Alan Gould

By Aneri Pattani, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Rising temperatures and more frequent heat waves could force up to 30 percent of airplanes to delay takeoffs in the coming decades, causing cancellations, missed connections and other hassles for passengers, and dealing a financial blow to the industry, a new study finds. As air warms, its density decreases. The wings of a plane moving down the runway on a hot day generate less lift. If it’s hot enough, the plane won’t be able to take off at all, according to the study, published in the journal Climatic Change. The plane can either delay departure or lighten its load by removing fuel, cargo or passengers. The consequences could affect passengers, airlines and airports worldwide, said Radley Horton, co-author and climatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.... https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/17/climate/global-warming-air-travel.html

2017-07-14. Unlocking Mysteries in the Sun’s 11-Year Cycle.

posted Jul 18, 2017, 10:19 PM by Alan Gould

By Nicholas St. Fleur. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 4. Excerpt: According to a study published Thursday in the journal Science, our beloved star can be classified as an ordinary “solar-type” star, meaning that the internal processes that control its activity are similar to those seen in many other nearby stars. The sun goes through an 11-year cycle where its magnetic poles flip — imagine the north and south poles on Earth changing place — and during this time the sun’s activity changes between subdued and tumultuous. When activity is low, it is known as solar minimum, and when activity is high, it is known as solar maximum. As the sun nears solar maximum and its activity cycle ramps up, its surface gets covered in sunspots, which are ephemeral dark marks created by strong magnetic activity. “Above sunspots you have complex structures that trigger dynamic phenomenons, eruptions that are like volcanoes,” said Antoine Strugarek, a solar physicist at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission and at the University of Montreal. “Those eruptions can impact our Earth.” ...In a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances, Dr. Morgan found that when the sun is at solar minimum, the quiet corona measures around 1.4 million degrees Celsius. But at solar maximum it jumps to around 1.8 million degrees. Dr. Morgan said he was not sure why the entire corona, including the areas not above a sunspot, heat up as the sun’s activity increases. “The solar corona remains a mystery,” he said. “But we are getting far better at measuring what it’s doing and that’s enabling us to start to understand it.”.... https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/science/sun-cycles-solar-maximum-minimum-corona.html

2017-07-12. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Gets Its Close-Up.

posted Jul 18, 2017, 10:15 PM by Alan Gould

By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7. Excerpt: NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been making repeated swoops just above the cloud tops of Jupiter. During the latest flyby, on Monday, the spacecraft passed about 5,600 miles over the Great Red Spot, a 10,000-mile-wide storm that has swirled for at least 350 years. NASA posted images from the flyby on the web on Wednesday. ...“The more we zoom into the Great Red Spot, the more turbulent it seems to be,” said James O’Donoghue, another scientist at NASA Goddard. “In some of the processed images we can clearly see anticlockwise rotating cells within the giant storm itself — storms within storms.”.... https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/12/science/jupiter-great-red-spot-nasa-juno.html

2017-07-13. Climate-Altering Gases Spiked in 2016, Federal Scientists Report.

posted Jul 17, 2017, 6:18 AM by Alan Gould

By Lisa Friedman, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 6. Excerpt: The climate-warming influence of greenhouse gas emissions rose more quickly last year than it has in nearly three decades, an increase scientists attributed in part to a strong El Niño weather pattern, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported this week. The Annual Greenhouse Gas Index also shows that the warming ability of global emissions of greenhouse gases, primarily driven by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activity, increased 40 percent between 1990 and 2016, a significant measure of man’s influence on the climate. Unlike most news releases accompanying the index during the Obama administration, NOAA’s announcement this year does not directly link human activity to emissions. “The role of greenhouse gases on influencing global temperatures is well understood by scientists, but it’s a complicated topic that can be difficult to communicate,” NOAA officials said in releasing the index. That is a notable shift from last year’s release, in which NOAA declared that “human activity has increased the direct warming effect of carbon dioxide.” In 2014 the agency, which is housed in the Commerce Department, said “the warming influence from human-emitted gases continues to increase.” .... https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/13/climate/greenhouse-gases-spike-noaa-global-warming.html

2017-07-12. Scientists expect floods in Bay Area from rising seas in coming decades.

posted Jul 13, 2017, 12:03 PM by Alan Gould

By Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Coastal neighborhoods in several [San Francisco] Bay Area cities are likely to face such frequent flooding from rising sea levels over the next century that residents will simply pack up and leave, according to a new study of the effects of climate change. Every local county will be dealing with frequent inundation of its bay shoreline by 2100, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The group said its report and accompanying maps, published in the peer-reviewed journal Elementa, are the first nationwide effort to identify the point at which coastal communities face the no-win decision of having to flee or fight sea level rise.... http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Scientists-expect-floods-in-Bay-Area-from-rising-11284750.php

2017-07-12. Massive iceberg nearly the size of Delaware breaks off Antarctica.

posted Jul 13, 2017, 11:34 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 10:28 PM ]

By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: One of the largest icebergs ever recorded broke off from an ice shelf in Antarctica, British scientists announced Wednesday. The 1 trillion ton iceberg, with twice of the volume of Lake Erie, broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf between Monday and Wednesday, according to Project MIDAS, which has been monitoring the shelf. At 2,200 square miles, the chunk of floating ice is nearly the size of Delaware. ...The calving reduced the size of the ice shelf by some 12%. “We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometers (miles) of ice," [Adrian Luckman, a professor of Swansea University and the lead investigator of Project MIDAS] said. ...Project MIDAS said there is no evidence to directly link the calving of the iceberg to climate change. However, it is widely accepted that warming ocean and atmospheric temperatures have been a factor in earlier disintegrations of ice shelves elsewhere on the Antarctic Peninsula, most notably Larsen A in 1995 and Larsen B in 2002. Global warming has pushed temperatures up to 5 degrees higher in the region since the 1950s and could increase up to 7 degrees more by the end of the century, putting more stress on the ice, according to Climate Central. Regardless of whether climate change is a factor, calving is a natural part of the cycle of ice shelves. Ice flows gradually into the shelf, the shelf expands until stresses become too much, and then icebergs are formed. Whether or not Larsen C will reform is unclear. Scientists think there is a possibility the remaining shelf is now too fragile to grow back to its former size.... https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/sciencefair/2017/07/12/massive-iceberg-breaks-off-antarctica/102637874/    See also Six Points of Perspective on Larsen C’s Huge New Iceberg, by JoAnna Wendel and Mohi Kumar, Eos/AGU.

2017-07-05. Floating Solar Farms Catch on in California.

posted Jul 9, 2017, 8:40 AM by Alan Gould

By Corey Binns, NRDC OnEarth. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: In Sonoma, California, the most important renewable resource will always be grapes. Sonoma’s vineyards, framed by picturesque rolling green hills, produce some of the best wines on the planet; tourists flock to the region to sample the latest pinots and admire the scenery. “People like the rolling, grassy hills,” says local resident Dale Roberts. But as principal engineer at the Sonoma County Water Agency, Roberts is focused on another homegrown renewable: clean energy. So behind the scenes in Sonoma, he’s been busy “juicing” the landscape in a way that’s quite different from the neighboring vintners’ activities. To be specific, Roberts and his colleagues have begun to launch floating solar panels on six of the agency’s ponds, which hold recycled water saved for irrigation during drought years. When all panels are up and running, by the end of 2018, the project is expected to generate 13 megawatts―or 23,000 megawatt-hours of energy in a year, enough to power 3,500 homes in the area. A similar project has begun on San Diego’s 200-acre Olivenhain Reservoir. There, 24,000 solar panels will cover a sliver of the reservoir’s surface and make 144,000 megawatt-hours of power annually, enough to run 21,500 homes.... https://www.nrdc.org/stories/floating-solar-farms-catch-california

2017-07-06. France Plans to End Sales of Gas and Diesel Cars by 2040.

posted Jul 9, 2017, 8:35 AM by Alan Gould   [ updated Jul 9, 2017, 8:38 AM ]

By Jack Ewing, The New York Times. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9. Excerpt: France is joining a growing movement to force the extinction of vehicles that run on fossil fuels, saying on Thursday that it would aim to end the sale of gasoline and diesel cars by 2040. The target is less ambitious than ones set by countries like Norway and India. Still, coming from a major car-producing country, France’s declaration gave additional momentum to efforts to fight climate change and urban smog by promoting the use of electric cars. ...On Wednesday, Volvo said that all of its new models beginning in 2019 would be either battery-powered cars or hybrids that combined electric motors with diesel or gasoline engines.... https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/06/business/energy-environment/france-cars-ban-gas-diesel.html See also: Volvo to use electric motors in all cars from 2019.

2017-06-16. The Great Barrier Reef: 25,000,000 B.C.– A.D. 2017?

posted Jul 9, 2017, 8:29 AM by Alan Gould

By Jeff Turrentine, NRDC OnEarth. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7. Excerpt: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef isn’t dead yet. But it’s dying. What’s killing the largest coral reef system on the planet? The short answer is us. We’re killing it via warmer waters, ocean acidification, pollution, poaching, and overfishing. Right now, scientists are most concerned about something called coral bleaching. ...Bleaching typically occurs when warm water stresses the coral polyps—the trillions of tiny animals that make up a reef—causing them to expel zooxanthellae, the photosynthetic algae that live within the polyps and serve as their principal food source, as well as the source of their Technicolor appearance. Though bleached coral isn’t dead, it’s weakened significantly by the loss of these algae; as a result, it’s far more likely to become diseased and to die. And while coral can recover, it generally takes about 10 years of normal (i.e., cooler) water temperatures for it to do so. ...Last week, scientists announced that they had discovered what they believe is a new breed of “super corals” in the South Pacific. These corals seem to have successfully adapted to the warmer, more acidic, and less oxygenated seas that now characterize the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem (and so many others). Should such super corals be found off Queensland, as the scientists hope they will be, then all hope may not be lost. Maybe, the researchers say, these specimens can flourish under what we have taken to be highly suboptimal conditions and repopulate the reef for the remainder of the Anthropocene....  https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/great-barrier-reef-25000000-bc-ad-2017


2017-07-01. As Beijing Joins Climate Fight, Chinese Companies Build Coal Plants.

posted Jul 6, 2017, 9:28 AM by Alan Gould

By Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9 and Energy Use chapter 4. Excerpt: When China halted plans for more than 100 new coal-fired power plants this year, even as President Trump vowed to “bring back coal” in America, the contrast seemed to confirm Beijing’s new role as a leader in the fight against climate change. But new data on the world’s biggest developers of coal-fired power plants paints a very different picture: China’s energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade. These Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal, according to tallies compiled by Urgewald, an environmental group based in Berlin. Many of the plants are in China, but by capacity, roughly a fifth of these new coal power stations are in other countries.... https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/01/climate/china-energy-companies-coal-plants-climate-change.html

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