GIS at UMass-Lowell: Alex Brown, instructor (2006-2015)

  (December 2015, early in my rehab following 10/5/2015 cardiac event.  Photo by Polly Brown.)

Alex Brown <

Instructor, GIS and Remote Sensing (2006-2015)
Department of Environmental, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
University of Massachusetts Lowell

(617) 308-9456 mobile voice (and text)

  • This site is an evolving experiment in public education on "global warming", or "anthropogenic climate change", which grew from my decade teaching at UML, and many discussions with colleagues, which ended suddenly with a severe cardiac event on Oct 5, 2015 -- which I was very lucky to survive almost completely unharmed.  I am presently exploring continuation of climate science public education at my town's public library, and in other locationsI urge you to do the same, and to approach our political leaders to urge prompt action on public policy for climate response.  (November 1, 2018)
  • Your suggestions and comments are welcome!  Please write to me at edited May 27, 2021)
  • Elizabeth Kolbert, from Field Notes from a Catastrophe:  "When I asked John McCain to characterize George Bush's position on global warming, he responded, 'MIA -- This is clearly an issue that we will win on over time, because of the evidence', he went on. 'The overwhelming impacts of climate change are becoming more and more visible every day.  The problem is: will it be too late?  We are a country that emits nearly 25 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases.  How much damage will have been done before we act?"
"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow  and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased."

Hurricane forecasters look closely at ocean temperatures. Sea surface temperatures above 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25 C) shown here (2015) 
in yellow=25C, orange and red > 25C, are sufficiently warm to fuel hurricanes. Credit: NOAA; thanks to   (Visit "The Most
    • "Monitoring the past and current climate helps us better understand climate change and enables future climate projections. We must maintain and extend the existing global climate observing systems [Riser et al., 2016; von Schuckmann et al., 2016] as well as develop improved coupled (ocean-atmosphere) climate assessment and prediction tools to ensure reliable and continuous monitoring for Earth’s energy imbalance, ocean heat content, and sea level rise."
    • "Observations show that climate change likely increased Hurricane Harvey's total rainfall by at least 19%.  Climate change likely increased the chances of the observed rainfall by a factor of at least 3.5."  [ Risser et al (2017) ]
  •  Walsh et al. (2017) "Pathways for balancing CO2 emissions and sinks"
    • "We find that, barring unforeseen and transformative technological advancement, anthropogenic emissions need to peak within the next 10 years, to maintain realistic pathways to meeting the COP21 emissions and warming targets. Fossil fuel consumption will probably need to be reduced below a quarter of primary energy supply by 2100 and the allowable consumption rate drops even further if negative emissions technologies remain technologically or economically unfeasible at the global scale."

"Global glacier volume is shrinking. This loss of Earth's land ice is of international concern. Rising seas, to which melting ice is a key contributor, are expected to displace millions of people within the lifetime of many of today's children. But the problems of glacier loss do not stop at sea level rise; glaciers are also crucial water sources, integral parts of Earth's air and water circulation systems, nutrient and shelter suppliers for flora and fauna, and unique landscapes for contemplation or exploration.  ...  The evidence is overwhelming: Earth is losing its ice.  Much of this loss is irreversible and the result of human-caused climate change. Unless substantial climate response action is taken and the trend of global temperature rise is reversed, we will continue to see Miami streets swallowed by the sea and glacier-fed freshwater reservoirs melt into mud.  And we can expect this pattern to continue for decades, centuries, and, indeed, millenia. ..."

Saying goodbye to glaciers - Twila Moon, National Snow and Ice Data Center.  

Elizabeth Kolbert (2014 Pulitzer Prize)  (Free PDF download;  registration proves to offer access to only a two-page review.)  (Ezra Klein interviews Elizabeth Kolbert in 2016)

"A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes"

"Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human."

Elizabeth Kolbert's environmental classic Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2015) first developed out of a groundbreaking, National Magazine Award-winning three-part series in The New Yorker. She expanded it into a still-concise yet richly researched and damning book about climate change: a primer on the greatest challenge facing the world today.  (Amazon:  print from $1.80 new,  Kindle e-book $10.99)

Zaria Forman:  The Last-Ice Woman
(Greenland, art, climate change, drawing, environmental art, iceberg, landscape, painting, pastel, pastel drawings, pastels, seascape)
(Revisited 2017, includes footage of NASA aerial radar survey through ice)
(Finished 30-minute film)  ...  or somewhere on this page

'I'm profoundly sad, I feel guilty': scientists reveal personal fears about the climate crisis

Guardian reports on climate hopelessness

The Guardian - Sat March 7 2020

 by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
(c) 2014 Columbia University Press
Paperback $9.77 Kindle $7.71 with credit $3.99 

Fiction written from a future historian's perspective, by a Harvard professor of history of science and geology, 


by Rachel Maddow…/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p…
$17.99 paperback $14.99 Kindle

"In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia—including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove—was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.

"With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe, revealing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing a surprising conclusion about why the Russian government hacked the 2016 U.S. election. She deftly shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia’s rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the West’s most important alliances, and the United States. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, most notably ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can’t really blame the lion. It’s in her nature.”

"BLOWOUT is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world’s most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher. As Maddow writes, “Democracy either wins this one or disappears.”  "

"We are playing a global endgame. Humanity's grasp on the planet is not strong; it is growing weaker. Freshwater is growing short; the atmosphere and the seas are increasingly polluted as a result of what has transpired on the land. The climate is changing in ways unfavorable to life, except for microbes, jellyfish, and fungi. For many species, these changes are already fatal."

Researchers seek to understand why right whales are showing up in high-risk waters in Canada
Science 25 August 2017: Vol. 357, Issue 6353, pp. 740-741
by Erik Stokstad -- "The highly endangered North Atlantic right whale is having its worst year in decades.  At least 13 of the whales -- out of a population of 450 -- have died this year, most of them in the past 2.5 months in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off Canada's eastern coast.  That is "an unprecedented number of deaths" says whale biologist Moira Brown of the New England Aquarium in Boston.  If the deaths continue, she says, "the population can't withstand this." ... This isn't the first crisis to hit the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalena glacialis), which lives along the eastern coast of North America.  Whalers nearly hunted it to extinction by the early 20th century.  Even after gaining international legal protection in 1949, the whales -- which rest and usually feed near the surface -- often drowned in fishing gear or died from ship strikes.  By the early 1990s, researchers estimated that fewer than 300 remained.  Since then, the population has increased.  ... The whales also benefited in the early 2000s when a favorite prey, the oily copepod Calanus finmarchius, burgeoned in the whales' summering grounds in the Gulf of Maine, the Bay of Fundy, and the Scotian Shelf.  Females bulk up on these miniscule crustaceans,  before migrating to the waters of the southern United States to give birth.  ... "
See also:  Endangered Earth, January 25, 2018:  A Legal Lifeline for Some of the World's Rarest Whales;  NY Times web edition: 4/27/17 Mass Die-Off of Whales in Atlantic Is Being Investigated and 10/3/17 A Less Hospitable Home:  As seas warm, whales face new dangers ; also see the Greenpeace seismic airgun blasting opposition campaign recommending a NO vote against H.R. 3133, the Streamlining Environmental Approvals (SEA) Act, to stop seismic airgun blasting.  (

The Great Nutrient Collapse:  The atmosphere is literally changing the food we eat, for the worse.

By Helena Bottemiller Evich



“Every leaf and every grass blade on earth makes more and more sugars as CO2 levels keep rising,” Irakli Loladze said.*  “We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history―[an] injection that dilutes other nutrients in our food supply.” His research on mathematical modeling of plant growth has led him to study recent change in nutrient value of crops. How does rising atmospheric CO2 change how plants grow? How much of the observed long-term nutrient drop of crops, since the sharp change in CO2 levels, is caused by the atmosphere, and how much by other factors, like breeding? It’s difficult, but not impossible, to run farm-scale experiments on how CO2 affects plants. Researchers use a technique that essentially turns an entire field into a lab. The current gold standard for this type of research is called a FACE experiment (for “Free-Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment”), in which researchers create large open-air structures that blow CO2 onto the plants in a given area. Small sensors keep track of the CO2 levels; when too much CO2 escapes the perimeter, the contraption puffs more into the air to keep the levels stable. Scientists can then compare those plants directly to others growing in normal air nearby. These experiments and others like them have shown scientists that plants change in important ways when they’re grown at elevated CO2 levels. Within the category of plants known as “C3”** ― which includes approximately 95 percent of plant species on earth, including ones we eat like wheat, rice, barley and potatoes ― elevated CO2 has been shown to drive down important minerals like calcium, potassium, zinc and iron. The data we have, which look at how plants would respond to the kind of CO2 concentrations we may see in our lifetimes, show these important minerals drop by 8 percent, on average. The same conditions have been shown to also drive down the protein content of C3 crops, in some cases significantly, with wheat and rice dropping 6 percent and 8 percent, respectively. ... "   I. Loladze, "Hidden shift of the ionome of plants exposed to elevated CO2 depletes minerals at the base of human nutrition" eLife. 2014; 3: e02245; doi:  10.7554/eLife.02245.  See also JIANG Qian, et al. "Responses of mineral nutrients in brown rice of indica and japonica cultivars to elevated atmospheric [ CO 2 ]",  Chinese Journal of Ecology 2019,38(5) :1363-1369  DOI: 10.13292 / j.1000-4890.201905.005. DOI appears to fail translation to URL;   PDF of this published work is available here (English abstract, Mandarin text).  I am not a reader of Mandarin text; comments would be welcome and very much appreciated: (email), 1-617-308-9456 (SMS).
Also: Differences between C3 and C4 photosynthesis and CO2 chemistry are fully discussed in  (Open access article), and
Frontiers in Plant Science, 18 August 2020  (Open access article)
Ensuring Nutritious Food Under Elevated CO2 Conditions: A Case for Improved C4 Crops
Timothy O. Jobe, Parisa Rahimzadeh Karvansara, Ivan Zenzen and Stanislav Kopriva
Institute for Plant Sciences, Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS), University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany
Loladze I. 2002. Rising atmospheric CO 2 and human nutrition:  Towards globally imbalanced plant stoichiometry. (

See also my page Mapping Anthropogenic Change: Aral Sea Basin:, for link at bottom of reference list to this citation:
Responses of mineral nutrients in brown rice of indica and japonica cultivars (Oryza sativa L.) to elevated atmospheric [CO2 ]. JIANG Qian, ZHU Chun⁃wu, LIU Gang, XU XiCHEN Chen, ZHANG Ji⁃shuang, ZHU Jian⁃guo  (State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008, China;University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China).
(This link within Google Docs may be incorrect -- sorry.)

September 24, 2019

After rallying 4 million people into the streets on Friday in the biggest global climate strike yet, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg brought her message inside United Nations Headquarters yesterday with a furious speech that repeatedly demanded of world leaders, “How dare you?”  “For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear,” Thunberg continued. “How dare you look away and say that you are doing enough!” Noting that the world’s carbon budget for a 1.5 degree Celsius future will be exhausted within 8.5 years if current trends continue, according to the scientists of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, she repeated, “How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business as usual?” Predicting that none of the speeches from world leaders today would wrestle with those imposing numbers, Thunberg declared that world leaders are “still not mature enough to tell it like it is.” The fury returning to her face, she warned, “You are betraying us…. If you choose to fail us, then I say, ‘We will never forgive you.’

How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong
Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios.

By Eugene Linden

Mr. Linden has written widely about climate change.  This article appeared in the New York Times, Friday, November 8, 2019.

For decades, most scientists saw climate change as a distant prospect. We now know that thinking was wrong. This summer, for instance, a heat wave in Europe penetrated the Arctic, pushing temperatures into the 80s across much of the Far North and, according to the Belgian climate scientist Xavier Fettweis, melting some 40 billion tons of Greenland’s ice sheet.

Had a scientist in the early 1990s suggested that within 25 years a single heat wave would measurably raise sea levels, at an estimated two one-hundredths of an inch, bake the Arctic and produce Sahara-like temperatures in Paris and Berlin, the prediction would have been dismissed as alarmist. But many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities.  ...

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creating a series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Holocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.
Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene, Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Katherine Richardson, Timothy M. Lenton, Carl Folke, Diana Liverman, Colin P. Summerhayes, Anthony D. Barnosky, Sarah E. Cornell, Michel Crucifix, Jonathan F. Donges, Ingo Fetzer, Steven J. Lade, Marten Scheffer, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber
PNAS August 14, 2018 115 (33) 8252-8259; published ahead of print August 6, 2018 

"We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene. We examine the evidence that such a threshold might exist and where it might be. If the threshold is crossed, the resulting trajectory would likely cause serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies. Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state. Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values."

Facing catastrophic climate change,
they still can’t quit Big Oil

Photos by Bonnie Jo Mount
Graphics by John Muyskens
Washington Post 
December 13, 2019

NUIQSUT, Alaska (70d 12' 48.13"N, 150d 52' 44.76"W, elevation 0) — The varnished wooden cross stands amid a cluster of grave markers tilted at odd angles in the cemetery, because the ground beneath them is sinking. Rising temperatures are thawing the once-frozen earth, forming pools of water that run through the graveyard.  In late May, Martha Itta buried her 89-year-old grandmother here. Before the ceremony even began, a young villager had to siphon off water that had crept into the grave.

Not even the dead are immune from climate change.  
It has fallen to Itta, the town’s 42-year-old tribal administrator, to steer her town away from the deal its founders brokered two decades ago. She is convinced that to preserve her people’s heritage, their environment and the animals they depend on, they must slow the fossil fuel extraction that has brought both money and a melting tundra. ...

The uncertain future of 
protected lands and waters

  1. Rachel E. Golden Kroner
  2. Siyu Qin
  3. Carly N. Cook
  4. Roopa Krithivasan
  5. Shalynn M. Pack
  6. Oscar D. Bonilla7
  7. Kerry Anne Cort-Kansinally8
  8. Bruno Coutinho9
  9. Mingmin Feng2,10
  10. Maria Isabel Martínez Garcia9
  11. Yifan He2
  12. Chris J. Kennedy1
  13. Clotilde Lebreton11
  14. Juan Carlos Ledezma12
  15. Thomas E. Lovejoy1
  16. David A. Luther13
  17. Yohan Parmanand8
  18. César Augusto Ruíz-Agudelo14
  19. Edgard Yerena15
  20. Vilisa Morón Zambrano15
  21. Michael B. Mascia2

Science  31 May 2019:

Vol. 364, Issue 6443, pp. 881-886

Extinction Rebellion:


Extinction Rebellion is a socio-political movement with the stated aim of using civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to protest against climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse. (Wikipedia)
FoundedOctober 31, 2018
MethodsNonviolent direct action
MottoRebel for life

Limestone quarries and cement factories are often sources of air pollution. After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on the planet. But its benefits mask enormous dangers to the planet, to human health – and to culture itself. ...
 The coal industry played an instrumental role in efforts to unwind the Obama administration’s climate policies.

A report from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) -- Washington DC, Zurich --

Smoke and Fumes: The Legal and Evidentiary Basis for Holding Big Oil Accountable for the Climate Crisis presents a comprehensive synthesis of the available evidence on what the oil industry knew about climate science, when they knew it, and what they did with the information. It combines that synthesis with an update on the latest developments in accountability research and science, which have dramatically improved our ability to identify the impacts of climate change on individuals and communities, the corporate actors that contributed to those impacts, and the nature of their contributions. The report presents this evidence in the context of the core elements of legal responsibility in tort and human rights law. It concludes that oil industry actors had early knowledge of climate risks and important opportunities to act on those risks, but repeatedly failed to do so. Those failures give raise to potential legal responsibilities under an array of legal theories.

Why the next three months*** are crucial for the future of the planet

Two forthcoming major climate talks offer governments an opportunity to respond to this year’s extreme weather with decisive action

***Published by The Guardian, 5 October 2018 

"This week, scientists are gathering in South Korea to draw together the last five years of advances in climate science to answer key questions for policymakers. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) celebrates its 30th birthday this year with what is likely to be a landmark report to be released on Monday 8 October. What is expected to emerge will be the strongest warning yet that these unusual occurrences will add up to a pattern that can only be overcome with drastic action.

"Thousands of the world’s leading climate experts collaborate on the periodic reports, released roughly every half-decade. They have grown clearer over the years in the certainty of their evidence that climate change is occurring as a result of human actions, and firmer in their warnings of the disruptive consequences.

"This time, the scientists will attempt to answer whether and how the world can meet the “aspiration” set in the Paris agreement of 2015 to hold warming to no more than 1.5C, beyond which many low-lying states and islands are likely to face dangerous sea level rises.

"When the scientists deliver their verdict, the onus will pass to politicians to translate their advice into concrete action. Already in recent weeks, global initiatives have begun aimed at doing so: the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco last month spurred protests, and dozens of local governments and multinational companies to make pledges; the second One Planet Summit saw advances in climate finance; while at the UN General Assembly, secretary general António Guterres urged world leaders to step up, calling climate change 'the defining issue of our time'. ... "

Published by The Guardian, 5 October 2018 -- updates include:

We Must Talk about Our Climate Crisis
Building community around solutions is crucial

"Climate change will upend the world in an array of disastrous ways—droughts, floods, fires, hurricanes, sea level rise. It will change our lives in a plethora of devastating ways—famine, migration, inundation, desertification, disease, conflict. Yet we barely talk about it. All too rarely do we sit down for deep, nuanced, and fact-based discussion of what climate change practically means for humanity. While some of us spend a lot of time reading and worrying about it, seldom do we gather in a room together to consider where the science is pointing and what we might collectively do about it.  Building community around solutions is the most important thing. So, earlier this month I hosted an event that gathered hundreds of people ... to confront this topic in no uncertain terms.  ..."  posted on April 22, 2019

Text - H.Res.109 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Recognizing the duty ... 

a Green New Deal ...
Feb 7, 2019 - H.Res.109 - Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create ..... (4) to achieve the Green New Deal goals and mobilization, a Green New Deal ...

Gina McCarthy talks about the intersection of climate and health and the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks

Workers Seize the Shipyard That Built the Titanic, 
Plan to Make Renewable Energy (Aug 14 2019)

"Late last month, 130 ship builders, steel workers, welders, and riveters seized control of the storied Belfast shipyard that built the Titanic in 1909. More than two weeks later, they're still there, and say they won't be leaving until the docks are nationalized and are used to produce renewable energy infrastructure."

A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation

January 2019
ISBN :978-92-9260-097-6

The growing deployment of renewables has set in motion a global energy transformation with significant implications for geopolitics. The Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Adnan Z. Amin, with the support of the Governments of Germany, Norway and the United Arab Emirates, convened the Global Commission in January 2018 to address this implications. 

Reaching the energy transition political tipping point:  RENEWABLES ARE CHEAPER AND CLEANER THAN FOSSILS -- AND LOCAL !!

2020 Vision: Why You Should See the Fossil Fuel Peak Coming

a report by Kingsmill Bond
41 pp., September 2018, available at

A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation

a report by the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation
88 pp., January 2019, available at

======== Message from Alex Brown (, website creator ========

The University of Massachusetts is the first major public university 
to divest from fossil fuel and energy investments.  I'm proud to have
been a part of this, through UML's Climate Change Initiative.


Much of my recent work has been in education, where the power of electronic communications has given us the Internet, and taught us the necessity, urgency, and strength of working together on problems which seem beyond our individual powers to solve. 

For most of my forty (!) odd years as an engineer -- a designer, creator and maintainer of useful things, using physical science training and experience -- I've been a member of an unusual large professional organization, the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). This field of engineering has touched and transformed almost every aspect of modern society, from power generation and distribution, for home, commercial and industrial illumination, to transportation and communication, and especially education of young people around the world. IEEE's member communities and professional societies have been a great resource to my own continuing education, especially:

  • IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (IEEE-GRSS)
  • IEEE Committee on Earth Observation (ICEO)
  • IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society (IEEE-OES)
  • IEEE Communications Society (IEEE-COMSOC)
IEEE's deepest roots are in the electric power generation and transmission industry, which has its own strong needs for static computer-based mapping, or "Geographic Information Systems (GIS)", the subject matter I taught at UML for almost a decade.  A recent "Atlas of Electricity" (below) by ESRI, the most prominent vendor of GIS software, whose products I taught for that decade to largely non-technical environmental engineers, combines static maps with moving-image elements using ArcGIS Online, a new GIS web service product family from ESRI which emphasizes integration of spatial data with interactive web map graphics technologies which tell stories of change visually:

An Atlas of Electricity -- a Story Map by ESRI   (2015)

"Electricity is integral to the modern American lifestyle. But the generation and transmission of electricity is a complex, opaque process. Here's how it all works."


[ "The Story Map Cascade℠ app template lets you combine narrative text with maps, images, and multimedia content in an engaging, full-screen scrolling experience. In a Cascade Story, sections containing text and in-line media can be interspersed with "immersive" sections that fill the screen with your maps, 3D scenes, images, and videos. Cascade is ideal for making compelling, in-depth stories that are very easy for people to navigate:  Learn more here:" ]

The combination of narrative text with aerial video photography, by noted photojournalist George Steinmetz, adds power to the following central story, Losing Earth:  The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change, from the New York Times Magazine, on the progress of US national debate on climate change and energy policy in the 1980s.   Most of our present players in this drama already had important roles -- James Hansen and Al Gore among them.

The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change
By Nathaniel Rich
Photographs and Videos by George Steinmetz

Jake Silverstein, editor:  "This narrative by Nathaniel Rich is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz. With support from the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it." 

Nathaniel Rich, author:  "... Among scientists and world leaders, the sentiment was unanimous: Action had to be taken, and the United States would need to lead. It didn’t."

"The inaugural chapter of the climate-change saga is over. In that chapter — call it Apprehension — we identified the threat and its consequences. We spoke, with increasing urgency and self-delusion, of the prospect of triumphing against long odds. But we did not seriously consider the prospect of failure. We understood what failure would mean for global temperatures, coastlines, agricultural yield, immigration patterns, the world economy. But we have not allowed ourselves to comprehend what failure might mean for us. How will it change the way we see ourselves, how we remember the past, how we imagine the future? Why did we do this to ourselves? These questions will be the subject of climate change’s second chapter — call it The Reckoning. There can be no understanding of our current and future predicament without understanding why we failed to solve this problem when we had the chance.

"That we came so close, as a civilization, to breaking our suicide pact with fossil fuels can be credited to the efforts of a handful of people, among them a hyperkinetic lobbyist and a guileless atmospheric physicist who, at great personal cost, tried to warn humanity of what was coming. They risked their careers in a painful, escalating campaign to solve the problem, first in scientific reports, later through conventional avenues of political persuasion and finally with a strategy of public shaming. Their efforts were shrewd, passionate, robust. And they failed. What follows is their story, and ours."

Losing Earth

  • Prologue  (1957-1978)
    • "In 1965, the President’s Science Advisory Committee asked Roger Revelle, then director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, to write a summary of the potential impacts of carbon dioxide–induced warming. Revelle had been interested in global climate for some time, and in the late 1950s had obtained funding for his colleague, chemist Charles David Keeling, to measure CO2 systematically. (This work would produce the Keeling curve of data collected at Mauna Loa since 1957, showing CO2’s steady increase over time—for which Charles Keeling would win the National Medal of Science in 2001 and be made famous by Al Gore in 2006 with An Inconvenient Truth.)"   -- Naomi Oreskes,  Merchants of Doubt (p. 170).
    • "Data collected since 1957 confirmed what had been known since before the turn of the 20th century: Human beings have altered Earth’s atmosphere through the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels."
    • "Yet emissions continued to rise, and at this rate ... they could see a snowless New England, the swamping of major coastal cities, as much as a 40 percent decline in national wheat production, the forced migration of about one-quarter of the world’s population. Not within centuries — within their own lifetimes."
    • "In the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves."
    • During the decade 1979-1989 "some of the largest oil companies, including Exxon and Shell, made good-faith efforts to understand the scope of the crisis and grapple with possible solutions" and "many prominent Republicans joined Democrats in judging the climate problem to be a rare political winner: nonpartisan and of the highest possible stakes."
  • Part One (1979-1982)
    • In the final paragraph of a chapter on environmental regulation, the authors of the EPA coal report (EPA-600/7-78-019, a technical report about coal published in the late 1970s) noted that the continued use of fossil fuels might, within two or three decades, bring about “significant and damaging” changes to the global atmosphere.  
    • The Jasons, a scientific support comittee for the Dept of Defense,"had been alarmed to see humankind begin in earnest to weaponize weather — not out of malice, but unwittingly." During the spring of 1977 and the summer of 1978,  "they met to determine what would happen once the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubled from pre-Industrial Revolution levels," and in their 1979 report to the Dept of Energy, “The Long-Term Impact of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on Climate,” doubling was forecast for approximately 2035.
  • Part Two (1983-1989)
    • Edward David Jr., the president of the research division of Exxon, and the former science adviser to Nixon, pledged that Exxon would revise its corporate strategy to account for climate change, even if it were not “fashionable” to do so. As Exxon had already made heavy investments in nuclear and solar technology, he was “generally upbeat” that Exxon would “invent” a future of renewable energy.
    • ...
  • Epilogue (1990-present)
NY Times web edition now offers a special section on climate change coverage:  
Another collection of web spatial visualization and mapping technologies, including "virtual reality" video best viewed on a smartphone, presenting evidence of rapid change.  First published 5/18/2017 -- see NYT reporting expedition story here.  

======== End message from Alex Brown (, website creator ========

      "More than 60 percent of the freshwater on Earth is locked in Antarctica’s ice sheets." ...  

    "A new analysis of satellite data has found "extreme" changes underway
 at eight of Antarctica's major glaciers, as unusually warm ocean water
 slips in under their ice shelves."

Antarctica's glaciers carry ice from the interior of the continent to the ocean. This NASA illustration shows where the ice is moving fastest; 
areas in red have the fastest flow, followed by those in pink and purple. The zero-longitude line is approximately the center of this image; 
hence the portion of Antarctica on its left is known as the "West Antarctica Ice Sheet" or WAIS.
Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (via"The warmer water is eating away at the glaciers' icy grasp on the seafloor. As a result, the grounding line—where the ice last touches bedrock—has been receding by as much as 600 feet per year, a new study shows. Behind the grounding line, the land-based ice then speeds up, increasing the rate of sea level rise.  The new continent-wide measurements of grounding lines suggests a widespread pattern of melting all around Antarctica, said University of Leeds climate researcher Hannes Konrad, lead author of the analysis published (April 2018) in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.  (  "We're seeing this all across the ice sheet," he said. "As the grounding line of the ice shelves moves back, the inland glaciers accelerate and raise global sea level."  Konrad and colleagues from University College London and the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany measured how the grounding lines are shifting across 16,000 kilometers of coastline using data from the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellites. ..."

NY Times:  "We went to Antarctica to understand how changes to its vast ice sheet might affect the world. Flowing lines on these maps show how the ice is moving. [Click links above and below in text to see maps in motion.]... Ice sheets flow downhill, seemingly in slow motion. Mountains funnel the ice into glaciers. And ice flowing from the land into the sea can form a floating ice shelf.  Glaciers in certain areas have been undercut by warmer ocean waters, and the flow of ice is getting faster and faster. The acceleration is making some scientists fear that Antarctica’s ice sheet may have entered the early stages of an unstoppable disintegration. Because the collapse of vulnerable parts of the ice sheet could raise the sea level dramatically,  the continued existence of the world’s great coastal cities — Miami, New York, Shanghai and many more — is tied to Antarctica’s fate..."

"A rapid disintegration of Antarctica might, in the worst case, cause the sea to rise so fast that tens of millions of coastal refugees would have to flee inland, potentially straining societies to the breaking point. Climate scientists used to regard that scenario as fit only for Hollywood disaster scripts. But these days, they cannot rule it out with any great confidence.  Yet as they try to determine how serious the situation is, the scientists confront a frustrating lack of information.  Recent computer forecasts suggest that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a high level, parts of Antarctica could break up rapidly, causing the ocean to rise six feet or more by the end of this century. That is double the maximum increase that an international climate panel projected only four years ago. ..."

  NY Times Antarctic Dispatches  Part 1Part 2Part 3

"... In a study last year, Robert M. DeConto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (web), and David Pollard of Pennsylvania State University used their computer model to predict what would happen if emissions were reduced sharply over the next few decades, in line with international climate goals. Under the most ambitious scenarios, they found a strong likelihood that Antarctica would remain fairly stable. “There’s still a chance that all hell will break loose,” Dr. DeConto said. “But the model is suggesting there’s a way to reduce the risk of a big sea-level rise from Antarctica.” [3]

[ ;]

The Antarctica Series:  Virtual reality experience
"Experience what it’s like above and below the Antarctic ice in virtual reality or read the story behind our reporting trip.  Four virtual-reality films take you on, above and below the Antarctic ice. Download the NYT VR app to your phone or pad for a fully immersive experience:
1. UNDER A CRACKED SKY (NYTVR 100000005099196) 
2. THREE SIX JULIET (NYTVR 100000005099197) 
3. MCMURDO STATION (NYTVR 100000005107713)
4. A SHIFTING CONTINENT (NYTVR 100000005109282)

Ice-Diving Drones Embark on Risky Antarctic Mission
To forecast sea level rise, a flotilla of robot subs must map the unseen bottom of a melting ice shelf—if they are not sunk by it
Mark Harris - Scientific American, December 6, 2017

"Deep below the bright, weather-smoothed surface of Antarctica’s ice shelves there is a dark landscape unlike any other on Earth. Fed by ice sheets on land, these giant shelves float on the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean. In their undersides melting water has carved out great inverted canyons and caves reaching up hundreds of meters, with terraces and ledges that step upward into the gloom. Sharp crevasses have been created where tidal pulls cracked the ice. And where the shelf is thickest above, ridges of ice below reach down and snag on the seabed, causing further stresses and cracks. ..."

"Welcome to the McMurdo Dry Valleys, the largest ice-free region in Antarctica and one of the driest places on the planet. Most of the continent is covered in thick ice, but this place is a striking exception. Sheltering mountains and dry winds from the continent preserve a frigid desert that defies all expectations."

"It is not barren: Scientists have spent decades studying the extreme environment and the microscopic life that survives there. The Dry Valleys may well be our closest equivalent to a Martian landscape. ..."

Extreme Survivor

A tiny, six-legged ceature called Tullbergia has persevered through more than 30 ice ages in the harshest badlands of the Transantarctic Mountains.  Scientists are just starting to figure out how.

Scientific American, April 2020 - by Douglas Fox

"In winter, temperatures in the southern Transantarctics plunge below –40 degrees Celsius. Some of the hard, thin soils on these peaks haven’t tasted appreciable amounts of water for tens to hundreds of thousands of years, allowing them to accumulate caustic salts, much like the surface of Mars. Yet despite the harsh environment, a handful of tiny animals call these mountains home. Hogg and Adams had been collecting samples since 2006, trying to learn which species live where.  The species that had been discovered in 1964, however — an insectlike animal called Tullbergia mediantarc­tica — had so far eluded them. ..."

Tullbergia (Fox, SA April 2020)

"NYTimes' Antarctic Dispatches is a three-part series from the seventh continent. Written by Justin Gillis. Maps and graphics by Derek Watkins and Jeremy White. Photographs by Jonathan Corum. Video by Evan Grothjan and Graham Roberts. Additional production by Gregor Aisch, Larry Buchanan and Rumsey Taylor."

Antarctic Dispatches  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Evan Grothjan, left, Jonathan Corum, Justin Gillis and Graham Roberts. CreditPhoto: Elaine Hood/U.S. Antarctic Program

"Interested in climate change? Sign up to receive our in-depth journalism about climate change around the world -- see"

Images (NYT 7/13/17):  Larsen C ice shelf rift from space; (left) approx 65x65 mi. (right) approx 1600x1600 feet.  Edge of ice cliff is approx 500 ft above water at rift.

"The collapse of the peninsula’s ice shelves can be interpreted as fulfilling a prophecy made in 1978 by a renowned geologist named John H. Mercer of Ohio State University. In a classic paper [5] Dr. Mercer warned that the western part of Antarctica was so vulnerable to human-induced climate warming as to pose a “threat of disaster” from rising seas.

"He said that humanity would know the calamity had begun when ice shelves started breaking up along the peninsula, with the breakups moving progressively southward.

"The Larsen A ice shelf broke up over several years starting in 1995; the Larsen B underwent a dramatic collapse in 2002; and now, scientists fear, the calving of the giant iceberg could be the first stage in the breakup of Larsen C.

“As climate warming progresses farther south,” Dr. Mercer said, “it will affect larger and larger ice shelves, holding back bigger and bigger glaciers, so that their collapse will contribute more to sea-level rise.”

For more Times reporting on Antarctica, read the Antarctic Dispatches or watch four virtual-reality films in The Antarctica Series:

Antarctic Dispatches:  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

1. UNDER A CRACKED SKY (NYTVR 100000005099196) 
2. THREE SIX JULIET (NYTVR 100000005099197) 
3. MCMURDO STATION (NYTVR 100000005107713)
4. A SHIFTING CONTINENT (NYTVR 100000005109282)

Glaciers Are Retreating. Millions Rely on Their Water.

Henry Fountain, a New York Times reporter, and Ben C. Solomon, a Times multimedia reporter, traveled to Kazakhstan to see the effects of climate change on mountain glaciers. Maps by Jeremy White.
NY Times Jan. 16, 2019

"On a summer day in the mountains high above Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, the Tuyuksu glacier is melting like mad. Rivulets of water stream down the glacier’s thin leading edge. ..."
Elizabeth Kolbert's environmental classic Field Notes from a Catastrophe first developed out of a groundbreaking, National Magazine Award-winning three-part series in The New Yorker. She expanded it into a still-concise yet richly researched and damning book about climate change: a primer on the greatest challenge facing the world today.  (Amazon: from $1.80 new,  Kindle e-book $10.99),204,203,200_.jpg

  A World Without Ice (2009) 
   by Henry Pollack Ph.D. (Author),‎ Al Gore (Foreword)

    Much has been written about global warming, but the crucial relationship between people and ice has received little focus, until now – and there is a fierce urgency as the problem accelerates. With clarity and insight, a geophysicist co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, Henry Pollack, paints a compelling portrait of the delicate geological balance between Earth and its ice, and shows why the current rapid loss of ice portends serious consequences in our not-so-distant future.  
Whether sculpting mountains, regulating temperatures, influencing ocean currents, or defining the limits of human settlement, ice has shaped – and continues to shape – the world we live in. This important and increasingly relevant book traces the effect of mountain glaciers on supplies of drinking water and agricultural irrigation, as well as the current results of melting permafrost and shrinking Antarctic and Arctic sea ice – a situation that has degraded the habitat of numerous animals and sparked an international race for seabed oil and minerals. Catastrophic possibilities loom, including rising sea levels and subsequent flooding of low-lying regions worldwide.   A World Without Ice explains why ice matters, and lays out the urgent actions we can take to restore Earth’s delicate climate balance.

Naomi Oreskes
Science 306 (5702), 1686.
DOI: 10.1126/science.1103618   (PDF)

Climate denialism: A brief history  by Eric Conway and Naomi Oreskes  (, October 31 2015)

Merchants of Doubt -- book (2010) and film (2014)
A 2010 non-fiction book by American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. It identifies parallels between the global warming controversy and earlier controversies over tobacco smokingacid rainDDT, and the hole in the ozone layer. Oreskes and Conway write that in each case "keeping the controversy alive" by spreading doubt and confusion after a scientific consensus had been reached was the basic strategy of those opposing action. In particular, they show that Fred SeitzFred Singer, and a few other contrarian scientists joined forces with conservative think tanks and private corporations to challenge the scientific consensus on many contemporary issues.

some surface layers are no longer freezing

If that continues, greenhouse gases from permafrost 

could accelerate climate change

by Craig Welch
National Geographic August 20 2018

The discovery has not been peer-reviewed or published and represents limited data from one spot in one year. But with measurements from another scientist nearby and one an ocean away appearing to support the Zimovs' findings, some Arctic experts are weighing a troubling question: Could a thaw of permafrost begin decades sooner than many people expect in some of the Arctic's coldest, most carbon-rich regions, releasing trapped greenhouse gases that could accelerate human-caused climate change?   "This really is astounding," says Max Holmes, an Arctic scientist with Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. ...

  1. Janos Pasztor
  2. Cynthia Scharf
  3. Kai-Uwe Schmidt 
Science  21 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6348, pp. 231
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan6794

"The Paris Agreement aims to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5° to 2°C above preindustrial temperature, but achieving this goal requires much higher levels of mitigation than currently planned. This challenge has focused greater attention on climate geoengineering approaches, which intentionally alter Earth’s climate system, as part of an overall response starting with radical mitigation. Yet it remains unclear how to govern research on, and potential deployment of geoengineering technologies. ..." [6]

[6]  ; Big Bad Fix: The Case Against Geoengineering (PDF)      ; ;  ;   ;  ;   ;  ; ;

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