Strange Days on Planet Earth
Scientists are Racing to Solve a Series of Mysteries

Strange Days on Planet Earth
Scientists are Racing to Solve a Series of Mysteries

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem.

Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat, or light.

Around the globe, scientists are racing to solve a series of mysteries that are difficult to understand.

Unsettling transformations are sweeping across the planet, and clue by clue, investigators around the world are assembling a new picture of Earth, discovering ways that seemingly disparate events are connected.

Crumbling houses in New Orleans are linked to voracious creatures from southern China. Vanishing forests in Yellowstone are linked to the disappearance of wolves. An asthma epidemic in the Caribbean is linked to dust storms in Africa.

Scientists suspect we have entered a time of global change swifter than any human being has ever witnessed. Where are we headed? What can we do to alter this course of events?

National Geographic's Strange Days on Planet Earth, premiering in Spring 2005 on PBS, explores these questions.

Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years.

It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average. Climate change may be limited to a specific region or may occur across the whole Earth.

Drawing upon research being generated by a new discipline, Earth System Science (ESS), the series aims to create an innovative type of environmental awareness.

By revealing a cause and effect relationship between what we as humans do to the Earth and what that in turn does to our environment and ecosystems, the series creates a new sense of environmental urgency.

Climate changes in response to changes in the global energy balance. On the broadest scale, the rate at which energy is received from the sun and the rate at which it is lost to space determine the equilibrium temperature and climate of Earth.

This energy is then distributed around the globe by winds, ocean currents, and other mechanisms to affect the climates of different regions. Factors that can shape climate are called climate forcings or "forcing mechanisms".

These include such processes as variations in solar radiation, deviations in the Earth's orbit, mountain-building and continental drift, and changes in greenhouse gas concentrations. There are a variety of climate change feedbacks that can either amplify or diminish the initial forcing.

Some parts of the climate system, such as the oceans and ice caps, respond slowly in reaction to climate forcings, while others respond more quickly. Forcing mechanisms can be either "internal" or "external". Internal forcing mechanisms are natural processes within the climate system itself.

External forcing mechanisms can be either natural or anthropogenic.

Whether the initial forcing mechanism is internal or external, the response of the climate system might be fast, slow, or a combination. Therefore, the climate system can respond abruptly, but the full response to forcing mechanisms might not be fully developed for centuries or even longer.

Award-winning actor, writer and director Edward Norton (Primal Fear, American History X, Italian Job) hosts the series. A dedicated environmental activist, Norton has a special interest in providing solar energy to low income families.

Each of the four one-hour episodes is constructed as a high-tech detective story, with the fate of the planet at stake.