Much of current climate science research focuses on understanding how the climate is changing and what type of climate we will have in the near future. But to understand where the climate is going, we need to understand where the climate has been. It is especially important to understand how the climate has responded to the rise of the modern, industrial world, which has emitted greenhouse gases that warm the climate. Because many of these gases will last for a long time in the atmosphere, some of this warming has already been set in motion and will happen regardless of future greenhouse gas emissions. This change is known as “committed warming”.
Determining how much committed warming has occurred in the climate is important to understand the future path of our climate. How on Earth speaks with Dr. Robert Pincus, a co-author of a new study published in Nature Climate Change that provides an estimate of committed warming using a global database of surface temperatures. Dr. Pincus is a Research Scientist at the Earth System Research Laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
With graduation season is upon us, or in many cases in the rearview mirror, today’s edition of How on Earth is the first of a two-part “Graduation Special”. Our guests in the studio today are scientists who recently graduated with – or soon will receive – their Ph.D. They talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next.
David Horvath – Colorado School of Mines, Department of Geophysics
Topic: Planetary Hydrology: Implications for the Past Martian Climate and Present Titan Lake Hydrology Using Numerical Models of the Hydrologic Cycles on Titan and Mars
In this follow-up episode of our “Graduation Special” we talk with three more guests graduating with science Ph.D.’s from the University of Colorado in Boulder. They join us to talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next:
Carleigh Samson – Environmental Engineering Program
Topic: Modeling Relationships between Climate, Source Water Quality and Disinfection Byproduct Formation and Speciation in Treated Drinking Water
Island on Fire (04:45): In 1783, a crack opened up in the Earth, began to spew out lava and ash and poisonous gases, and didn’t stop for eight months. The volcano was Laki, one of many volcanoes in Iceland, and the effects of the eruption went global. Laki’s story is one of geology, chemistry, atmospheric science, and biology. Co-host Beth Bartel talks with long-time science writers and co-authors Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe about what we’ve learned from Laki and how we can apply the lessons of Laki today.
The rightful place of science (starts at 6:22): In 2014, the world certainly saw more than a few costly weather disasters. Flooding in India and Pakistan in September killed more than 600 people and resulted in economic losses of more than $18 billion. Super Typhoon Rammasum, which hit the Philippines, China and Vietnam in July caused more than 200 deaths and losses of $6.5 billion. And, closer to home, in August, rainfall and flooding in Detroit, Baltimore and Long Island damaged homes and cities leading to economic losses of about $2 billion.
At the same time, the United Nations Weather Agency states that 2014 was the warmest year on record. So, the question is: Are these natural disasters related to the warming climate? And are natural disasters becoming more costly because of climate change?
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, How On Earth brings you one short report and two features:
Feature 1 – Salt Lake City’s Drier Future (start time 4:25): Guests Laura Briefer and Tim Bardsley talk with How On Earth’s Jim Pullen about how science is helping water management planners in Salt Lake City prepare for an uncertain—and drier—future. Briefer is the water resource manager for Salt Lake City’s Department of Public Utilities and Bardsley is a hydrologist working with Salt Lake City via University of Colorado’s Western Water Assessment.
Feature 2 – Spruce Beetle Outbreak (start time 15:12): We continue with the climate theme, but bring it away from the cities and into the forests. Picture this: Up high, in the mountains of Colorado, a small beetle, about the size of a grain of rice, works its way into the bark of a spruce tree, where it burrows in to find some tasty morsels—the tree’s reproductive tissues. Here it will feast, and, under the right conditions, kill the tree. This is not the more familiar mountain pine beetle, but a spruce beetle. Same idea, different tree. And the scale of a current spruce beetle outbreak in our state is being referred to by CU researchers as “massive.” University of Colorado ecologist Sarah Hart tells How On Earth’s Beth Bartel more about Colorado’s spruce beetle outbreak and the drought that’s causing it.
Short Report – Animal Tagging (start time 1:07): Does tagging animals affect the very behavior scientists are trying to study? Susan Moran reports on how one study finds that even small tags and equipment can drag marine creatures down. For more information, check out NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center page and photos or, better yet, videos of model (mock?) turtles and their wind tunnels.
Hosts: Beth Bartel, Jim Pullen Producer: Beth Bartel Engineer: Jim Pullen Executive Producer: Beth Bartel Additional Contributions: Susan Moran
Volcanoes & the Atmosphere (start time 6:17): We’ve known for a long time that volcanic particles and gases can travel around the world, often affecting climate. The 1815 eruption of the Indonesian volcano Tambora chilled New England and Europe, resulting in what came to be known as “the year without a summer.” More recently, the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines cooled temperatures throughout the Northern Hemisphere by up to 0.6 degrees Celsius. Those were both sizable eruptions. Co-host Beth Bartel talks with Bill Randel, division director of the Atmospheric Chemistry Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, about what a mid-sized eruption in the horn of Africa can tell us about atmospheric circulation.
Traffic in Beijing (start time 15:13): A new study shows that China gets a gold medal for dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Yes, that’s Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world. The new study shows that China severely restricted auto traffic in the city, leading to a major reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it could be enough to make a dent in curbing climate change if similar efforts were to be made in cities around the world, and on a sustained basis. Co-host Susan Moran discuss the new paper and its implications with Helen Worden of the National Center of Atmospheric Research.
Hosts: Beth Bartel and Susan Moran Producer: Beth Bartel Engineer: Jim Pullen Additional contributions: Shelley Schlender Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Algae Oil Omega-3 (start time 5:28). Omega-3 dietary supplements are all the rage. Many studies claim that this family of fatty acids benefits your brain, heart and vision, among other things. A non-fish source that already is infused in milk and other foods we consume is oil derived from marine algae. Cohost Susan Moran interviews Dr. Bill Barclay, a microbial ecologist who manages the Boulder division of Martek Biosciences (now DSM). He talks about how he discovered how to produce DHA omega-3 oils from microalgae, and how they can boost our health in an environmentally sustainable way (or at least free of concern about overfishing).
Little Ice Age (start time 15:25). Shortly after the Middle Ages, something strange happened. Suddenly, the entire world got a little cooler. And then it hung on. The cooling lasted over 500 years, all the way to the 1800s. Those five cool centuries are known as the Little Ice Age. How it happened has been a mystery that modern climate scientists have worked hard to figure out, and one they’ve argued about. Now, a University of Colorado Boulder-led study appears to have finally solved the mystery. HOE’s Shelley Schlender interviews the lead author of the study, CU-Boulder Professor Gifford Miller.
Hosts: Tom McKinnon, Susan Moran
Contributor: Breanna Draxler Producer: Susan Moran Engineer: Shelley Schlender Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender