There has been a significant media firestorm in the past few days about the science of climate change. There are some basic facts that scientifically prove the Earth is changing.
- Carbon dioxide absorbs heat. More CO2, more heat gets trapped. If the Earth didn’t have any CO2 in its atmosphere the planet would have average temperatures around zero degrees Fahrenheit.
- The amount of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere has varied over time, but has never been as high as it is right now. Burning fossil fuels (gas, oil, coal, etc) produces CO2. We started burning more of these fuels with the Industrial Revolution. Current CO2 measurements are taken in Hawaii, to avoid big city pollution. Historic data comes from taking ice samples from Antarctica known as ice cores. This ice has a small amount of air trapped in it that is analyzed for its content. There are both night/day and seasonal fluctuations, but averages are quite telling. The data is summarized in one figure below.
Forecasting the exact implications of this change in concentration is difficult, since all areas will react differently. However, many implications are already being observed. Changes in overall sea level, ground ice cover, global average temperatures and arctic sea ice are all being observed and monitored by an number of programs around the world. NASA has an incredibly in-depth site dedicated to this science.
There is also an international body, known as the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) with representation by 195 countries, who is in charge of assessing climate change science worldwide. They regularly publish reports of their findings. The 5th Assessment Report, found in here or as a condensed summary here, concluded “it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
Want to see how some of these things might directly affect you? NOAA has a great sea level map. You can zoom to see how a variety of different amounts of rise effects areas – note, for example, New Orleans, NYC metro, or Boston.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has spent considerable time in the last year trying to understand comets – using 67P as the model.
67P – photo credit ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
This comet was orbited by a satellite, Rosetta, for two years, taking spectacular pictures and communicating with scientists on Earth. (See Twitter: ) Rosetta even carried a lander on board, Philae, which was dispatched to the surface of the comet in late 2014. Philae did not land softly, and only communicated with Earth a few brief times.
A picture of Philae, taken from Rosetta, after separating
On September 30, 2016, Rosetta’s mission was completed and the satellite was purposefully crashed into 67P, taking pictures the entire time.
You can see more about the complete mission here.
I traveled to 4 national parks in Utah and Colorado –
Capitol Reef – where plate tectonics created the Waterpocket Fold and settlers from 1500 years ago left their mark. There are also the remnants of old uranium mines in the park!
Capitol Reef – view of the Waterpocket fold
Arches – my favorite of all of the parks I’ve visited – is home to 2000 arches made of Entrada and Navajo Sandstone. It was 100+ degrees most days, so we hiked early in the morning and remembered to carry lots of water!
Just a few of the sandstone formations
Canyondlands (Island in the Sky District) – The power of erosion is apparent – this area is shaped by both the Colorado and the Green river. A considerable number of rock strata are on display here.
Views of the Green River
Rocky Mountain National Park – The 3rd most visited park last year had a LOT of people at it. The wildlife here always attracts significant attention and this visit was no exception.
Adult female elk (rt) and moose with baby (left)
Happy 100th birthday, National Park Service!
The Discovery Channel, as always, has shown us some amazing things! Just a few highlights – you can check out the ultrasound of a pregnant tiger shark, hammerheads hunting black tip sharks, and the reason for the surge in great whites off the shores of Cape Cod.
Did you know you can track sharks yourself? Several apps, including Global Shark Tracker (Ocearch.org) and GHRI SharkTracker (UpperZ), allow you to track tagged sharks! According to GHRI, the closest recent sighting is a Female Mako Shark named Charlotte. Charlotte has been tracked for 400+ days, and most recently surfaced off the coast of Delaware on 7/1. Charlotte’s map is seen below.
Mako Shark Charlotte, locations from GHRI
It’s amazing to see how far some of these animals travel! A male Tiger Shark, Tim H, was tagged off the coast of Bermuda and was last detected off the coast of Venezuela, 1394 days later (8/8/14).
Tiger Shark Tim H, locations from GHRI
NASA released a new high resolution photo of Pluto’s surface this week. (Make sure you zoom in!) The photo has a resolution of about 260 feet and is a composite of a number of photos taken during New Horizon‘s July 2015 flyby.
Photo Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
As a result of this fly-by we have learned that the surface of the planet is covered with ices – made of nitrogen, ammonia, and methane. We’ve also learned that Pluto is currently geologically active and may even contain active ice volcanoes!
For more information:
The Marianas Trench is the deepest part of the Earth’s oceans. NOAA is currently in the middle of an investigation of the seafloor and ecosystems in this area. From April 20 – July 10 the Okeanos Explorer will be gathering baseline information about habitats, living systems, and underwater geology, among other things. Even more interesting – the exploration is being live streamed on three different cameras.
New species of jellyfish identified. (Image courtesy of NOAA)
This mission has so far captured video of a ghostshark, deep sea lobster, extinct hydrothermal chimneys, and a variety of other deep sea fish.
Daily updates dives can be read here.
An explanation of how a rocket works, using only the 1,000 most commonly used words in the English language.