Tag: climate change

Climate Change, Disease and the Fall of Rome

By Kyle Harper | December 15, 2017 11:01 am
fall-of-rome

This painting (circa 1836) titled “Destruction” is one painting depicting in a five part series by Thomas Cole called “The Course of an Empire.” (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

At some time or another, every historian of Rome has been asked to say where we are, today, on Rome’s cycle of decline. Historians might squirm at such attempts to use the past but, even if history does not repeat itself, nor come packaged into moral lessons, it can deepen our sense of what it means to be human and how fragile our societies are. Read More

A Geoengineered Future Is Downright Scary

By Nathaniel Scharping | December 13, 2017 2:06 pm
(Credit: kazuend/Unsplash)

(Credit: kazuend/Unsplash)

Catastrophic climate change seems inevitable. Between the still-accelerating pace of greenhouse gas emissions and the voices of global warming deniers, hitting the targets laid out in the Paris Accord to slow the pace of a warming climate feels increasingly elusive.

To hit even the 2 degree Celsius cap on a global temperature increase, emissions would need to peak in 2020, or less than three years from now, and keep going down after that. We could do it, but will we? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Top Posts

How Vulnerable Are Societies to Collapse?

By Jim O'Donnell | September 28, 2017 12:28 pm
Bowl1

Research findings on three early Native American cultures from the southwestern United States show how each responded to environmental challenges in different ways that dramatically altered their people’s futures. (David Williams/SAPIENS)

Along the cottonwood-lined rivers of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona, the Mimbres people did something unique: By the year 1000, these farmers were producing stunning ceramics decorated with naturalistic images of fish, people, and rabbits, as well as magical creatures and elaborate geometric patterns. And then, rather abruptly, they stopped.

After roughly a century of higher than normal rainfall, the area the Mimbres inhabited suffered a powerful drought, as indicated by the archaeological record. Big game—already scarce—became even less abundant, and it became harder to grow the beans, corn and squash that the Mimbres relied on. By about 1150 the Mimbres were no longer making their signature pottery. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, Top Posts

The Doomsday Clock in Fiction and Reality

By David Warmflash | May 18, 2016 7:00 am
the doomsday clock is set at three minutes before midnight.

(Credit: Bank Artist/Shutterstock)

A nuclear-armed Pakistani aircraft crashes just over the Indian border and the situation is about to spiral out of control. In Washington D.C., nuclear physicists and geopolitical analysts belonging to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are meeting to decide whether to advance the “Doomsday Clock” ahead by two minutes.

The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic representation of the level danger on planet Earth, and moving it ahead two minutes would take it to two minutes before midnight — two minutes before the end. This fictional scenario played out on a recent episode of Madam Secretary, but the Clock has been used as a snapshot of the dangers we face for well over five decades. But how do the hands on the Clock tick?  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology, Top Posts

Archaeologists Race Against Climate Change to Save Cultural Treasures

By Hannah Hoag | March 22, 2016 1:40 pm
01_Friesen-2-1076x588

The remains of a 500-year-old Inuvialuit village are sliding into the ocean as the coast gives way. Archaeologists are moving quickly to excavate the most impressive of the semi-subterranean dwellings to understand the people who lived there. (Credit: Max Friesen)

(This post originally appeared in the brand new, online anthropology magazine SAPIENS. Follow @SAPIENS_org on Twitter to discover more of their work.) 

On a bright and buggy day in July 2014, Max Friesen, whiskered and encased in denim and Gore-Tex, inched across a stretch of tundra overlooking the East Channel of the Mackenzie River, where it unravels into the Arctic Ocean. The archaeologist pushed his way through a tangle of willow brush that grew thick atop the frozen soil sloping towards the ocean.

Friesen was searching for signs of a long-buried house, feeling for the berms and sharply defined depressions in the ground that pointed to subterranean walls and rooms. The work was difficult and stressful. Shrubs obscured the ground. Friesen had to trust that what he felt beneath his boots was in fact the structure of a large home hundreds of years old.

“I was under horrible pressure,” says Friesen from his office at the University of Toronto a year later. “I had this crew of 10 that I wanted to get digging. But if you make a mistake, you’ve devoted 10 people’s labor for weeks at incredibly high costs to get the project going, and if you came down on a crappy house it would be really terrible.” Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Top Posts

Climate Change and Hurricane Katrina: What Have We Learned?

By Kerry Emanuel, MIT | August 24, 2015 2:44 pm

Hurricane_Katrina_GOES_August_29

Three weeks and three days before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 10 years ago, a paper of mine appeared in the scientific journal Nature showing that North Atlantic hurricane power was strongly correlated with the temperature of the tropical Atlantic during hurricane season, and that both had been increasing rapidly over the previous 30 years or so. It attributed these increases to a combination of natural climate oscillations and to global warming.

Had Katrina not occurred, this paper and another by an independent team would merely have contributed to the slowly accumulating literature on the relationship between climate and hurricanes.

Instead, the two papers inspired a media firestorm, polarizing popular opinion and, to some extent, scientists themselves, on whether global warming was in some way responsible for Katrina. While the firestorm was mostly destructive, benefiting only the media, it had a silver lining in inspiring a much more concerted effort by atmospheric and climate scientists to understand how hurricanes influence and are influenced by climate.

We have learned much in the intervening years.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Top Posts

Why Do Volcanic Eruptions Come in Clusters?

By Robin Wylie | September 25, 2014 3:29 pm
Bárðarbunga Volcano in Iceland erupting on September 4, 2014. Credit: Peter Hartree via Flickr

Bárðarbunga Volcano in Iceland erupting on September 4, 2014. Credit: Peter Hartree via Flickr

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

The Earth seems to have been smoking a lot recently. Volcanoes are currently erupting in Iceland, Hawaii, Indonesia and Mexico. Others, in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, erupted recently but seem to have calmed down. Many of these have threatened homes and forced evacuations. But among their less-endangered spectators, these eruptions may have raised a question: Is there such a thing as a season for volcanic eruptions?

Surprisingly, this may be a possibility. While volcanoes may not have “seasons” as we know them, scientists have started to discern intriguing patterns in their activity.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Top Posts

Climate, Not Spaniards, Brought Diseases That Killed Aztecs

By Guest Blogger | August 1, 2013 8:00 am

By Linda Marsa

The following excerpt from Marsa’s forthcoming book, “Fevered: How a Hotter Planet Will Harm Our Health and How We Can Save Ourselves,” was originally published on PLOS Blogs as part of their series “The Science of Extinction and Survival: Conversations on Climate Change.”

The wild swings in weather that are expected to become commonplace as the planet gets warmer—more frequent and severe droughts, followed by drenching rains—change ecosystems in a way that awaken and expedite the transmission of once dormant diseases.

Intriguingly, this type of weather pattern may be what led to the fall of the once mighty Aztec Empire in the early 16th century–and not as is commonly held, by the invasion of European colonialists, who brought with them diseases like mumps, measles and smallpox for which the native populations lacked immunity.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: aztecs, climate change

Can We Predict When People Will Abandon the Jersey Shore?

By Guest Blogger | March 20, 2013 1:10 pm

By Dave Levitan

The Casino Pier Star Jet roller coaster submerged in the sea on January 13, 2013 in Seaside Heights, NJ. Courtesy Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock

Diamond City, North Carolina, is not actually a city, in that no one actually lives there. People did live there, though, back in 1899. That was when a major hurricane hit the community, on a small barrier island near Cape Hatteras. Homes were destroyed, animals were killed, and graves were uncovered or washed away in the storm according to a conservation group in the area. By 1902, all 500 residents in Diamond City had picked up and left.

Left, Rasmus Midgett sits on the wreckage of the Priscilla after the San Ciriaco Hurricane. Right, another ship driven ashore in the storm. Images courtesy State Archives of North Carolina.

The people there didn’t have computer climate models, or rapidly rising seas, or any understanding of increasing storm vulnerability; they just had a desire not to deal with what they assumed would be a constant problem. That problem, of course, is one that anyone living on the East Coast is confronting, especially with the waters of Hurricane Sandy still slowly receding from our coastal consciousness. The question is, when should people in New Jersey, Long Island, Maryland, and elsewhere start thinking about leaving behind their own versions of Diamond City?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Top Posts

Following warmest year on record, frigid U.S. temps in 2013

By Guest Blogger | January 7, 2013 4:00 pm

Tom Yulsman is co-director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Climate Central, the Daily Climate and Audubon.

In a week or so, it will be official: 2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States. In fact, if a projection by Climate Central turns out to be correct, 2012 will smash the previous record by a whopping 1 degree F.

But for a good portion of the country, 2013 has gotten off to a rather frosty start. On Jan. 3, with much colder than normal temperatures extending all the way to the Gulf Coast, the most frigid spot in the nation (including Alaska) was officially Alamosa, Colorado. Here, the temperature plunged to an astonishing low of -33 degrees.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: climate change, weather
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