Even ignoring the wildfires and drought this season, the sweltering heat itself is proclaiming this an intense summer. And unusually hot summers are becoming not so unusual, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers averaged the summer and winter temperatures for multiple locations across the globe during the years from 1951 to 1980, establishing a baseline for each season. Then they measured how much the temperature varied from this average over the years. They found an increasing number of anomalies in the past 30 years. We no longer have equal odds of the summer temperatures being unusually hot, or unusually cool. Instead, as the researchers phrase it, we are dealing with loaded dice: we are now much more likely to have a hot summer than an average or cool one. And hot temperatures have become both more frequent and more intense. In the time period from which the researchers drew their average, less than one percent of land on Earth suffered from extreme hotter-than-usual temperatures (more than three standard deviations above the average) at any one time. Now, these temperature hotspots cover 10 percent of the land.
Have you noticed that it’s been hotter than usual lately? Your answer might reveal your ideology.
Now, it’s old news that American acceptance of global climate change is closely linked to political affiliation: As of 2011, 77 percent of Democrats thought the Earth was getting warmer, but only 43 percent of Republicans agreed. We also already knew that when it gets hotter, more people of both affiliations say the Earth is warming.
But it isn’t necessarily a one-way street. A new study flips it around: Researchers have found that ideology can skew how people perceive local temperature trends. In other words, your answer to “Has it been hotter lately?” can reveal whether you’re an individualist or more community oriented.
The Sun’s atmosphere, or corona, is spectacularly hot—far, far hotter than the Sun’s surface. Why this is is still something of a mystery, and scientists watching the Sun’s surface have built software that looks at the heating and cooling occurring in the corona in an attempt to understand how fast temperature changes happen.
Above is an ultraviolet image of a small patch of the sun’s corona. The right half has been processed with a computer program so sections that are growing cooler over a 12-hour period are colored yellow, orange, and red, while heating sections are labeled blue and green.
A fruit fly in its natural habitat
In circadian rhythm research, the single best-studied organism is probably the fruit fly. It was through grinding up the heads of countless flies that scientists discovered molecular clock genes, which were then found to play similar roles in humans. But when it come to how actual fly behavior changes in a 24-hour period, a recent study questions whether conventional lab wisdom is wrong. A new paper in Nature put those same lab-bred fruit flies in a natural habitat and observed bursts of activity at unexpected times.
Two set of experiments, one in Italy and another right in the backyard of the lead researcher in England, found that flies are diurnal. That means they’re most active during the day, specifically the afternoon with small upticks in activity during dawn and dusk. While this may not sound exciting by itself, it upends decades of lab research that said fruit flies take a “siesta” during the day and have dramatic bursts of morning and evening activity. This behavior is so well-accepted that there are neuron clusters of the fly brain called morning and evening oscillators whose activity corresponds to the bursts.
Outdoors, however, temperature fluctuations and the gradual rising or setting of the sun offer much richer information than a temperature-controlled incubator where lights flick on at ZT 0 and off at ZT 12. (ZT stands for Zeitgeber Time, which means “time giver” in German.) Since the morning burst of activity comes just before sunrise, scientists had thought it was governed by an internal molecular clock. Data from this new study suggest this morning activity is actually set by warming temperatures leading up to sunrise.