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climate

Hurricanes suppressed by air pollutants

Understanding how often devastating tropical storms like Superstorm Sandy occur, and how humans may play a role in their frequency, is a major goal among climate scientists. Now, a new study indicates that aerosols may suppress storm formation over the Atlantic. Thus, researchers say, more frequent storms at the end of the last century might have been an unintended side effect of cleaning up the air.

26 Jun 2013

The past is key to the future: Historical observations strengthen modern science

 

Written records of natural phenomena come from personal journals and diaries, newspaper accounts, ship logs and government documents, among other sources. Such accounts often offer descriptive details and context that cannot be matched by other methods, and they can prove extremely useful in broadening records both temporally and geographically. Given that they predate the sort of widespread instrumental readings that scientists have come to depend on, sometimes there is simply — and literally — no substitute for historical data. Despite their advantages, historical records are used infrequently in modern physical sciences. That may be changing, however.

29 May 2013

Highlights of 2012: Climate 2012 - A window into what to expect for 2013 and beyond?

July 2012 was the hottest month by far for the lower 48 states. Much of the nation faced drought conditions that grew steadily worse throughout the summer, and there were major repercussions for crop yields and food prices. Wildfires were also rampant. The record low snowpack in May 2012 in the Colorado Rockies set the stage for major wildfires in June, with more than 600 homes lost in Colorado alone. Wildfires developed in other regions in July as well, as tremendous record-breaking heat developed in Oklahoma and surrounding areas. Considered individually, the record temperatures, droughts, fires and diminished snowpack are not necessarily alarming and may not signal anything beyond the natural occurrence of a hotter-than-average year. But combined, these indicators are much more significant from a climate standpoint. They highlight that there is more than just natural variability playing a role: Global warming has reared its head in a way that can only be a major warning for the future. So, what can we expect?

25 Nov 2012

Voices: Greening the Gross Domestic Product

When measured in terms of annual Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, the United States is the richest country in the world, followed at a distance by China and Japan, and then several European countries, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom. The GDP — the value of all final goods and services produced in a country during a given year — is a simple computation that allows a direct comparison of wealth between countries.

01 Apr 2010

A Dirty SecretChina's greatest import: Carbon emissions

The U.S. and much of the Western world have a dirty secret.

While we claim to be working diligently to decrease our emissions and switch to cleaner, non-fossil fuel energies, we are actually just exporting emissions to other countries, most notably China. We don’t talk about it. We get on our soapboxes at international meetings and claim to be making great progress to halt ever-increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. And we complain vociferously about developing countries — again, most notably China — not doing the same.

22 Nov 2010

Voices: Geologists on the wrong side of the law

We live in a litigious society. Engineering and environmental geologists are no strangers to the legal system. They frequently deal with issues relating to geologic hazards such as active faults and unstable ground, the release of contaminants into the environment and numerous other circumstances. But for the most part, geoscientists tend to avoid legal battles. Is that changing?

03 Dec 2010

A Martian icecap, now in 3-D

Move over, James Cameron. Researchers have created the first 3-D subsurface pictures of Mars’ northern icecap — and they’re using these images to solve a 40-year-old Martian puzzle.

The puzzle centered around Chasma Boreale, an ice canyon in the northern icecap that is comparable in size to the Grand Canyon, and the spiral troughs that extend in a pinwheel-fashion from the icecap’s center. How each of these features formed has long mystified researchers.

27 May 2010

Hazardous Living: Climategate climatologists cleared of wrongdoing

Last November, a thousand private e-mails between prominent climatologists were hacked, resulting in a brouhaha that threatened to discredit the work presented in the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report.

08 Jul 2010

Local coastal impacts underestimated from sea-level rise

Most studies indicate that sea levels will rise over the next century due to melting glaciers, more ice breaking off the Antarctic ice sheet and thermal expansion — and there is great variation in how much scientists estimate seas will rise. But that’s not even the most important question, according to a new study. Instead, researchers should be looking at relative sea-level rise — how much rising seas will affect individual regions. And when you break it down by region, the study suggests, the outlook isn’t promising.

09 Jul 2010

A day without Glory

On a warm afternoon in early March, the Taurus XL rocket that was prepped for launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California looked more like a giant chopstick standing on end than a potential game changer in the debate over climate change science. The barrel-shaped satellite that the rocket carried — named Glory — was designed to deliver critical information about small airborne particles called aerosols.

19 Aug 2011

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