NASA’s Got a New Web Site

NASA’s JPL has a new web site which focuses on surface conditions on one specific planet: The Earth. i-4b8c56f740cd31b2fd7d07fc2900d4ce-NASA_new_web_site.jpgIt has a Sea Level Viewer which is basically a very fancy menu for a number of multi-media presentations, and a list of current or proposed missions. I am not overly impressed with this, but it may be a good resource for the kiddies.Much more interesting, and in fact, quite impressive, is the “Climate Time Machine” … Continue reading

Impacts of anthropogenic climate change many, varied

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Impacts from warming are evident in satellite images showing that lakes in Siberia disappearing as the permafrost thaws and lake water drains deeper into the ground. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
A new study led by NASA links anthropogenic climate change to a wide range of effects. The study involved scientists from about a dozen institutions and agencies, and looked at biological impacts arising from global temperature increase since the 1970s. The article is published in Nature. According to lead author Cynthia Rosenweig, “This is the first study to link global temperature data sets, climate model results, and observed changes in a broad range of physical and biological systems to show the link between humans, climate, and impact … Humans are influencing climate through increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the warming is causing impacts on physical and biological systems that are now attributable at the global scale and in North America, Europe, and Asia.From the abstract of the paper: Continue reading

How Society Will Accept Rational Science: The Best Way to Frame Global Warming and Evolution

There is a point that I’ve been trying to make for the last few weeks now, off and on, and it is not working. So I’m going to try something new. Please bear with me, and consider the following three scenarios regarding the idea that the Earth is Round (or, possibly, flat): Continue reading

Too Many Tornadoes

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Marilee Thomas of Beaver City, Nebraska. And a tornado. [source]
Mid-Americans … Minnesotans, Texans, Nebraskans and denizens of Arkansas, and everyone in between, understand tornadoes, but to varying degrees. There are differences by region in how we deal with them. In Arkansas, I’ve seen foolish bravado. The tornado shelter there is known as the “fraidy hole” and having one or not in your back yard may be linked to one’s sense of machismo. People from Missouri that I have known have a deep respect for tornadoes. An example: A few years back there was a talk being given at The U when the tornado sirens went off. Looking out the windows all we could see was black punctuated by white dots (the hail hitting the window). That was not good at 3:00 in the afternoon. As the group sat there wondering what to do, my student, Lynne, stood up and said “I’m from Missouri. I’m going to the basement. You’all can stay here if you like.” Continue reading

Cyclone Nargis Death Toll Rises

The Myanmar/Burma death toll is now experiencing the usual effects of poor information, limited reporting, and the outcome of being stuck between sensationalism and horror.Most agencies are reporting 22,000 dead with twice that missing. I do think that these numbers are meaningless at this point, as the Junta government can’t be trusted to be able to deliver this sort of information, and aid agencies are only now arriving on the scene. Continue reading

Nature and Conservation News

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Canadian panel: Climate change is threat to polar bears from PhysOrg.com
(AP) — A scientific committee that advises Canada’s government on endangered species said Friday that climate change is a threat to the survival of the polar bear, but the species does not face extinction.
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Narwhals more at risk to Arctic warming than polar bears from PhysOrg.com
(AP) — The polar bear has become an icon of global warming vulnerability, but a new study found an Arctic mammal that may be even more at risk to climate change: the narwhal.
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What’s in the air?

i-fc0baa42c324cefa8495fdb0044234b2-dice.jpgGood question … what IS in the air?The simple answer is that the air … the Earth’s atmosphere … is about 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, with a tiny amount of some other gases including water vapor. Then, there’s dirt. I want to talk a little about the oxygen, one of the other gases (carbon dioxide to be exact), the water vapor, and the dirt. Continue reading

Did sexist white males cause the extinction of the woolly mammoth, or was it climate change?

i-df0d572725cb6610419e63e698f12a2f-mammoth.jpgEver since 3,599 years ago humans have been asking the question “Why did our furry elephant go extinct?”What caused the woolly mammoth’s (not to be confused with the also-woolly mastodon) extinction? Climate warming in the Holocene might have driven the extinction of this cold-adapted species, yet the species had survived previous warming periods, suggesting that the more-plausible cause was human expansion.The woolly mammoth went extinct less than four thousand years ago. The bones of miniaturized woolly mammoths have been found in Siberia dating to about 3,600 years ago. Indeed, woolly mammoths, the furry elephant of the north, was around recently enough that it overlaps with the invention of writing by humans, and is depicted in a drawing on the wall of at least one example of a dynastic Egyptian building, along with a number of other unusual (for Egypt) but perfectly real animals. Continue reading

The Boneyard XIII

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Grrrrrrrrrrrrr….

Welcome to the Lucky 13th Edition of The Boneyard … the Web Carnival about Bones and Stuff.

“The Boneyard is a blog carnival covering all things paleo, from dinosaurs to pollen to hominids and everywhere in between. It’s held every two weeks (the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month), traveling around to a different blog for each installment, connecting some of the best blogging on ancient life.”

The previous edition of The Boneyard is here, at Dragon’s Tales. The next edition of The Boneyard will be Here at Archaeozoology. If you would like to submit an entry to the next edition, you may do so here. As always, thanks to Brian for originating and managing this carnival.

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Jolly ol’England

Old books can be wonderful sources of information, ideas, and even inspiration. I collect them and sometimes even read them. Reading a 100 year old book in your field of interest is a challenge and can be a rewarding experience.It is a challenge because it is dangerous. I worry that I might accidentally learn something that is no longer true. What if I remember it at some later time, like at a cocktail party or while giving a lecture, but don’t remember the source: “… As is well known, flies spontaneously generate from certain forms of mud …” Continue reading

Berry Go Round #3

Welcome to Berry Go Round #3, the blog carnival deicated to all things botanical.The previous installment, Berry Go Round #2, is located here, at Further Thoughts. If you would like to submit an item to the next Berry Go Round, you may use this handy submission form. The Berry Go Round Home Page is here. Continue reading

Give one hour to the Earth

During Earth Hour, you switch off the lights and other non-essential electronic devices. At 8:00 PM March 29th. You’ll save electricity, but more importantly, you’ll be making a point.

Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming.This simple act has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world. As a result, at 8pm March 29, 2008 millions of people in some of the world’s major capital cities, including Copenhagen, Toronto, Chicago, Melbourne, Brisbane and Tel Aviv will unite and switch off for Earth Hour

Here’s the web site.

Polar Bears and Global Warming

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The pending federal decision about whether to protect the polar bear as a threatened species is as much about climate science as it is about climate change.

The US Fish and Wildlife service is contemplating the listing of the obviusly endangered polar bear as a threatened species. Well, duh…The problem for them (the US Federal Government, which has been converted over the last 7 years into a right wing think tank) is that the main threat to the polar bear is global warming, and there are still plenty of individuals in charge of the US that want to deny global warming. Continue reading

Expanding deserts

Scientists have long projected that areas north and south of the tropics will grow drier in a warming world — from the Middle East through the European Riviera to the American Southwest, from sub-Saharan Africa to parts of Australia.These regions are too far from the equator to benefit from the moist columns of heated air that result in steamy afternoon downpours. And the additional precipitation foreseen as more water evaporates from the seas is mostly expected to fall at higher latitudes. Essentially, a lot of climate scientists say, these regions may start to feel more like deserts under the influence of global warming.Now scientists have measured a rapid recent expansion of desert-like barrenness in the subtropical oceans — in places where surface waters have also been steadily warming. There could be a link to human-driven climate change, but it’s too soon to tell, the scientists said.

Nice piece in the New York Times

Very Large Parks are the Wave of the Future

i-7d35893be24aaef70df6fcdd0a3c03cc-tigersnowJLM1161.jpgAcross Africa, and to some extent Asia, existing large parks and preserves are being combined into very large parks in order to serve several important functions. One is to make the parks so large that there will be interior areas that are impractical for most poaching or other encroachment. Another is to allow movement of migratory animals into new areas when their populations grow (presumably with some degree of natural culling cycling the process down now and then). Another is to allow a park to always contain a minimal range of a certain habitat even when secular or long term climate variation reduces that habitat. Yet another may be to make the park more attractive to tourism.With animals like tigers, who have relatively low population densities, it is essential to have large contiguous areas in order to have a viable population size both for genetic diversity and to get past periods of decimation by periodic disease or starvation episodes. Continue reading

Darwin and the Voyage: 11 ~ Elephants and Horses

In 1833, Darwin spent a fair amount of time on the East Coast of South America, including in the Pampas, where he had access to abundant fossil material. Here I’d like to examine his writings about some of the megafauna, including Toxodon, Mastodon, and horses, and his further considerations of biogeography and evolution. Continue reading

The Potato and Human Evolution

ResearchBlogging.orgFallback foods are the foods that an organism eats when it can’t find the good stuff. It has been suggested that adaptive changes in fallback food strategies can leave a more distinct mark on the morphology of an organism, including in the fossil record, than changes in preferred food strategies. This assertion is based on work done by the Grants and others with Galapagos Island finches, by Richard Wrangham and me with hominids, and by Betsy Burr and me with rodents. Continue reading

Darwin and the Voyage: 09 ~ Fossil Quadrupeds

Charles Darwin wrote a book called Geological Observations on South America. Since Fitzroy needed to carry out intensive and extensive coastal mapping in South America, and Darwin was, at heart, a geologist more than anything else (at least during the Beagle’s voyage), this meant that Darwin would become the world’s expert on South American geology. Much of The Voyage is about his expeditions and observations. Part of this, of course, was figuring out the paleontology of the region. Continue reading

Are We In The Anthropocene? No.

ResearchBlogging.orgProposals to give the latter part of the present geological period (the Holocene) a new name … the Anthropocene … are misguided, scientifically invalid, and obnoxious. However, there is a use for a term that is closely related to “Anthropocene” and I propose that we adopt that term instead. Continue reading