Articles from 2005–present
2022-07-21. Nobel Recognition for the Roles of Complexity and Intermittency. [https://eos.org/opinions/nobel-recognition-for-the-roles-of-complexity-and-intermittency] By Daniel Schertzer and Catherine Nicolis, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three scientists “for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems.” …Until recently, the Nobel Committee for Physics has been more used to awarding scientists for tracking down the elementary building blocks of the universe. Yet in October 2021, the committee awarded the prize jointly to three scientists who revolutionized nonlinear physics with insights into complex systems. Specifically, Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann were awarded “for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming,” and Giorgio Parisi was awarded “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.” …According to the French Roadmap for Complex Systems, which was developed to coordinate and focus research on complex systems, “a complex system is in general any system comprised of a great number of heterogeneous entities, among which local interactions create multiple levels of collective structure and organization…[that] cannot be easily traced back to the properties of the constituent entities.” Natural examples of complex systems range from biomolecules and cells to social systems and the ecosphere; sophisticated artificial systems, such as the Internet, power grids, and large-scale distributed software systems, also qualify. …Syukuro Manabe was recognized by the Nobel committee for designing and developing one of the first consistent, high-resolution, deterministic numerical global climate models.…
2021-03-15. Building a Better Model to View Earth’s Interacting Processes. By Gokhan Danabasoglu and Jean-François Lamarque, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Earth’s climate is the result of a complex network of interacting systems: air currents, ocean biogeochemistry, mountain ranges, and ice sheets, to name a few. Understanding how our climate evolves and predicting what it will look like under various scenarios require comparing and combining multiple models and simulations, each with its own strengths and focus areas. Earth science researchers are currently putting the most recent release of one such modeling system through its paces. The open-source Community Earth System Model (CESM) modeling framework is used for many purposes, including investigations of past and current climate, projections of future climate change, and subseasonal-to-decadal Earth system predictions. Its latest version, CESM2, was released in June 2018, followed by several incremental releases that included additional, readily available model configurations. Compared with its predecessor, CESM2 offers researchers new capabilities, including more realistic representations of changes in Greenland’s ice sheet and interactions of agricultural crops with the Earth system, as well as detailed models of clouds and wind-driven ocean waves. …The equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) and the transient climate response (TCR) are two properties that emerge from the coupled simulations. ECS represents the equilibrium change in global mean surface temperature after a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), and TCR represents the change in global mean surface temperature around the time of CO2 doubling when CO2 increases by 1% per year. CESM2 ECS values of 5.1°C–5.3°C are considerably higher than those produced by its previous versions, which had ECS values of about 4.0°C…. [https://eos.org/opinions/building-a-better-model-to-view-earths-interacting-processes]
2020-04-20. Mountain Streams Exhale More Than Their Share of CO2. By Kimberly M. S. Cartier. Excerpt: Sample a stream that runs through the Amazon, the Congo basin, or Canada’s Northern Cordillera, and you’re likely to measure a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolved in the water. That carbon mostly comes from plants, animals, and microbes that decompose in the water or return their carbon to the surrounding soil. Mountain streams, however, start their journeys at high altitudes, which lack the carbon-rich soil of their lowland cousins. They haven’t been widely studied, and the few measurements that exist suggest that their water is carbon poor. Because of that, it’s been assumed that mountain streams don’t contribute all that much to the combined CO2 emission from river networks. However, new research recently published in Nature Communications [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12905-z] suggests that altogether, mountain streams likely emit more than half as much CO2 as the oceans absorb annually and emit more CO2 per square meter than tropical and boreal streams…. [https://eos.org/articles/mountain-streams-exhale-more-than-their-share-of-co2]
2020-04-20. Shaping Water Management with Planetary Boundaries. By Aaron Sidder, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: In 2009, scientists introduced the planetary boundaries framework [https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries.html], which identified nine critical Earth system processes—chemical pollution, climate change, and freshwater consumption among them—and established a stress limit, or boundary, for each. If a boundary is eclipsed, the Earth system could be irreversibly destabilized. For example, the current boundary for freshwater use is the point at which human water consumption disrupts environmental flow and impedes the global hydrological cycle; recent work has suggested potential additional subboundaries for groundwater, atmospheric water, soil moisture, and frozen water…. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/shaping-water-management-with-planetary-boundaries]
2019-11-20. A massive experiment in Taiwan aims to reveal landslides’ surprising effect on the climate. By Katherine Korneim, Science Magazine.
2019-11-20. A massive experiment in Taiwan aims to reveal landslides’ surprising effect on the climate. By Katherine Korneim, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/11/massive-experiment-taiwan-aims-reveal-landslides-surprising-effect-climate] a remarkable example of systems studies, lithosphere-atmosphere interaction. Excerpt: TAROKO NATIONAL PARK, TAIWAN—The frequent crackle of tumbling rocks overhead is unnerving, especially when you’re picking your way through a pile of jagged debris. …Taiwan’s most comprehensive landscape dynamics observatory. One goal is to monitor landslides and understand their triggers. A bigger aim is to investigate their hidden impact on the climate: As massive chemical reactors, landslides draw carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the sky and sometimes belch it out, too. Understanding their role as both carbon source and sink could help researchers better model the carbon cycle that ultimately controls our planet’s climate and habitability….THE TEAM WILL ALSO TACKLE a deeper mystery: the invisible influence of landslides on the atmosphere. The exchange of carbon between the atmosphere, the surface, and the oceans ultimately regulates Earth’s habitability. For now, humanity—through industrial and agricultural emissions—is a dominant force in the carbon cycle. But over geologic time, the interaction of water with rocks freshly exposed by erosion—so-called chemical weathering—is another powerful player. And landslides are catalysts that speed up chemical weathering….
2019-10-31. Watching Earth’s Interconnected Systems at Work. By Fabian D. Schneider, António Ferraz, and David Schimel, Eos/AGU. [https://eos.org/science-updates/watching-earths-interconnected-systems-at-work] Excerpt: Surface Biology and Geology, a new NASA Earth observation effort, is developing a path forward for monitoring the Earth system from space. … Space-based Earth observations are critical in advancing both our fundamental understanding of how the planet operates and our ability to monitor, predict, and respond to changes on short and long timescales. To prioritize Earth observation needs for the next decade, the National Academy of Sciences developed a short list [https://www.nap.edu/read/24938/chapter/6#118] of high-priority observing systems called “designated observables” according to the 2017 decadal survey [https://essp.nasa.gov/essp/files/2018/02/2017-Earth-Science-Decadal-Survey.pdf] for Earth observation from space, the most recent survey. One of the designated observables is Surface Biology and Geology (SBG) [https://sbg.jpl.nasa.gov/], which addresses critical scientific questions and topics with respect to ecology and biodiversity (terrestrial and aquatic), hydrology, physical geography, solid Earth science, and societally beneficial applications relevant to each of these areas…..
2019-12-14. How Monsoons in Africa Drove Glacier Growth in Europe. By Emily Underwood, Eos/AGU/Geophysical Research Letters. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/how-monsoons-in-africa-drove-glacier-growth-in-europe] Excerpt: A new study shows that low-latitude weather can affect distant glaciers. Around 250,000 years ago, most of North America and northern Europe was covered in glaciers. These massive ice sheets formed over thousands of years and waxed and waned in response to a long list of factors, including wobbles in Earth’s orbit, alterations in the atmosphere, and changing ocean currents. Now, scientists have added another mechanism to that list: distant monsoons. …During a frigid period of the late Quaternary, large chunks of the European Ice Sheet melted and refroze, temporarily creating large, warm pools of meltwater in the Bay of Biscay, the gulf between Spain and France. …distant, low-latitude weather events such as the East Asian monsoon can impact glaciers far away, at much higher latitudes. To test whether monsoons could explain the European Ice Sheet’s ebb and flow, Kaboth-Bahr et al. examined cores of sediment extracted from the deep seafloor near the Strait of Gibraltar, as well as two other locations. Using the ratio of light to heavy minerals in the sediment as a proxy for the volume and force of water flow at the seafloor, they reconstructed ancient ocean currents dating back 250,000 years. …when monsoons periodically weakened in northeast Africa, thus drying up the Nile River, the change caused saltier water to rush out of the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic. As this relatively warm, salty water hit the Atlantic, it produced what is known as the Azores Current, a branch of the Gulf Stream that drags warm Atlantic waters toward England and northern Europe. During glacial periods, the pooling of this warm Atlantic water generates the moisture that makes ice sheets grow….
2018-03-07. Forests Protect the Climate. A Future With More Storms Would Mean Trouble. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: RIO GRANDE, P.R. — When Hurricane Maria walloped Puerto Rico in September, it ripped off roofs, flooded neighborhoods and all but destroyed the island’s power grid, leaving a humanitarian catastrophe that Puerto Ricans are still recovering from months later. But Maria took its toll on nature as well. Its winds of up to 155 miles an hour wrecked thousands of acres of trees, including much of El Yunque National Forest, 28,000 acres of lush tropical rain forest east of the capital, San Juan. To a group of researchers hiking down a steep, slick mountain trail in El Yunque recently, the destruction was readily apparent. Led by María Uriarte, an ecologist at Columbia University, they were here to study the damage and better understand how an expected increase in extreme weather may undermine the ability of forests to aid the climate….https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/07/climate/forests-storms-climate-change.html
2017-10-20. Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them? By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: The country lost most of its trees long ago. Despite years of replanting, it isn’t making much progress. …The country lost most of its trees more than a thousand years ago, when Viking settlers took their axes to the forests that covered one-quarter of the countryside. Now Icelanders would like to get some of those forests back, to improve and stabilize the country’s harsh soils, help agriculture and fight climate change. But restoring even a portion of Iceland’s once-vast forests is a slow and seemingly endless task. Despite the planting of three million or more trees in recent years, the amount of land that is covered in forest — estimated at about 1 percent at the turn of the 20th century, when reforestation was made a priority — has barely increased. …Even in a small country like Iceland, a few million trees a year is just a drop in the bucket. …With vegetation unable to gain much of a foothold, farming and grazing have been next to impossible in many parts of the country. And the loose soil, combined with Iceland’s strong winds, has led to sandstorms that can further damage the land — and even blast the paint off cars…. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/20/climate/iceland-trees-reforestation.html
2015-10-19. Daily Views of Earth Available on New NASA Website. NASA Release 15-199. Excerpt: NASA launched a new website Monday so the world can see images of the full, sunlit side of the Earth every day. The images are taken by a NASA camera one million miles away on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force. Once a day NASA will post at least a dozen new color images of Earth acquired from 12 to 36 hours earlier by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC). Each daily sequence of images will show the Earth as it rotates, thus revealing the whole globe over the course of a day. The new website also features an archive of EPIC images searchable by date and continent…. http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/daily-views-of-earth-available-on-new-nasa-website
2013 January 23. Is cold wave beetle’s death knell?. By Dale Rodebaugh, The Durango Herald. Excerpt: The widespread cold in Southwest Colorado in recent weeks has been penetrating enough to shrivel people, but probably hasn’t fazed the spruce bark beetle, foresters say. It requires days, maybe weeks, of minus 20, minus 30 or minus 40 degrees to affect the bark beetle, which has ravaged broad stands of Engelmann spruce in many areas, including the Weminuche Wilderness north of Durango and Wolf Creek Pass to the east. “The colder it is and the longer it’s cold will bring more beetle mortality,” said Kent Grant, the district forester in Durango for the Colorado State Forest Service. “It would be nice to think it could happen, but don’t bank on it.” … The eastern San Juan Mountains may have lost 90 percent of some spruce stands to the bark beetle, he said. In its 2012 report (the 2013 report isn’t out yet), the Colorado State Forest Service said the mountain pine beetle continued to be the most damaging forest pest in 2011.….
2012 November 27. Beetles Warm BC Forests. By Sabrina Richards, TheScientist. Excerpt: Pine beetle infestation increases the summertime temperatures of some Canadian forests by 1 degree Celsius—about the same impact as a forest fire—according to new findings published Sunday (November 25) in Nature Geoscience. The beetle populations, spurred into profusion by global warming, appear to be contributing to a temperature feedback loop, …. The results reinforce the conclusion that ecological disturbances like beetle infestations can have significant ecological impacts, said Allan Carroll, an insect ecologist at the University of British Columbia…. ”We have until very recently considered biotic disturbances a bit player [in climate change],” …. The current study confirms that pine beetles can have massive effects that set up “an uncomfortable feedback” wherein warming temperatures encourage more beetle damage, which in turn influences warming… Pine beetles lay their eggs under pine tree bark, introducing a fungus that inhibits nutrient flow in the trees. Usually pine beetles are killed off by freezing winter temperatures, limiting their spread. But a recent spate of warm winters, combined with forests dominated by mature pine trees, enabled a beetle population boom in North America, including parts of Alberta, Wyoming, and Colorado. About 170,000 square kilometers of British Columbia’s forest—almost 20 percent of the province’s area—have been affected by pine beetle infestations, costing thousands of timber industry jobs. Many studies have focused on the role of global warming on pine beetle outbreaks, but fewer have looked at how the beetles themselves may be contributing to climate change….
2011 August 8. An Economist for Nature Calculates the Need for More Protection. By John Moir, The New York Times. Excerpt: Dawn is breaking over this remote upland region, where neat rows of coffee plants cover many of the hillsides. The rising tropical sun saturates the landscape with color, revealing islandlike remnants of native forest scattered among the coffee plantations. But across this bucolic countryside, trouble is brewing. An invasive African insect known as the coffee berry borer is threatening the area’s crops. Local farmers call the pest “la broca”: the borer.
…Since 1991, Dr. Daily, 46, has made frequent trips to this Costa Rican site to conduct one of the tropics’ most comprehensive population-level studies to monitor long-term ecological change.
“We are working to very specifically quantify in biophysical and dollar terms the value of conserving the forest and its wildlife,” she said.
In recent years, Dr. Daily has expanded her research to include a global focus. She is one of the pioneers in the growing worldwide effort to protect the environment by quantifying the value of “natural capital” — nature’s goods and services that are fundamental for human life — and factoring these benefits into the calculations of businesses and governments. Dr. Daily’s work has attracted international attention and has earned her some of the world’s most coveted environmental awards….
2009 May 20. NASA GIVES SPACE STATION CREW ‘GO’ TO DRINK RECYCLED WATER – NASA RELEASE: 09-096. Excerpt: HOUSTON — NASA’s Mission Control gave the Expedition 19 astronaut crew aboard the International Space Station a “go” to drink water that the station’s new recycling system has purified. …”This has been the stuff of science fiction.
Everybody’s talked about recycling water in a closed loop system, but nobody’s ever done it before. Here we are today with the first round of recycled water, …This system will reduce the amount of water we must launch to the station once the shuttle retires and also test out a key technology required for sending humans on long duration missions to the moon and Mars.” …The system has been processing urine into purified water since shuttle Discovery’s STS-119 crew delivered and installed a replacement Urine Processing Assembly in March. The system is tied into the station’s Waste and Hygiene Compartment toilet and recovers and recycles moisture from the station’s atmosphere….
2009 May 11. Humboldt’s gift. The Economist. Excerpt: AMID this year’s flurry of scientific jubilees, one seems to have passed largely unnoticed. On May 6th admirers celebrated the 150th anniversary of the death of Alexander von Humboldt, a Prussian naturalist and geographer. He may no longer be as famous as some of his contemporaries, yet Humboldt’s work sheds a clear light on the great challenges the world faces today from climate change. Humboldt noticed, for example, that volcanoes form in chains and speculated that these might coincide with subterranean fissures, more than a century before plate tectonics became widely accepted. …he championed the study of how living things were related to their physical surroundings….
Humboldt cut a remarkable figure. He travelled widely, making scientific notes of his many geographical, zoological and botanical discoveries, and formulating theories to explain the relationships he observed….
…Humboldt was a polymath. Versed in most scientific fields of the time…he later contributed to many disciplines by picking up myriad botanical, zoological and geological samples on his voyages….He was permanently on the lookout for possible interdependencies. The search for underlying relationships between different sets of geophysical and meteorological measurements, which he made by the thousand, led him to invent isotherms, the lines on maps that link points of equal temperature. This vast quantitative endeavour laid the groundwork for “the general physics of the Earth” that is now known as the Earth sciences…
2008 July 22. NEW NASA ‘FIRE & SMOKE’ WEB PAGE SHOWS LATEST FIRE VIEWS, RESEARCH. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — NASA satellites, aircraft, and research know-how have created a wealth of cutting-edge tools to help firefighters battle wildfires. These tools also have helped scientists understand the impact of fires and smoke on Earth’s climate and ecosystems. Now, a new NASA Web site brings to the public and journalists the latest information about this ongoing effort.
The NASA “Fire and Smoke” Web site debuting Tuesday includes regular updates of NASA images of fires and their associated smoke plumes in the United States and around the world. The site also features articles on the latest research results and multimedia resources from across NASA. The site is updated regularly with new images from NASA’s suite of Earth observing satellites and airborne observatories, including the unmanned Ikhana aircraft that recently pinpointed wildfire hotspots across California….
2007 July-August. EXPEDITION TO SIBERIA. NASA Earth Observatory. Blog entries from NASA scientists and Russia’s Academy of Science on an expedition down the Kochechum River in north-central Siberia as they go in search of answers to the question “As Earth’s temperature rises, what is happening to the great northern forests of Siberia?”
2006 November 6 NASA SUPPORTS UAS FIRE MAPPING EFFORTS ON CALIFORNIA FIRE From NASA Earth Observatory. A team led by NASA and U.S. Forest Service scientists recently collected real-time, visible and infrared data from sensors onboard a remotely piloted aircraft over the Esperanza Fire in Southern California.
2 October 2005. A Quest for Oil Collides With Nature in Alaska. By FELICITY BARRINGER. NT Times. IKPIKPUK RIVER DELTA, Alaska – The 217,000 acres of windblown water and mottled tundra here on the North Slope of Alaska …are home in summer to 50,000 to 90,000 migratory birds. This corner of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve is also thought to be brimming with oil. From the presidencies of Ronald Reagan through Bill Clinton, federal officials put the bird habitat off limits to oil development. But after federal geologists in 2002 quadrupled their estimate of the oil available here in the northeast quadrant of the reserve, the Bush administration proposed putting the whole area up for lease to oil and gas companies. The move has touched off a fierce debate over whether new technologies can allow wildlife to coexist easily with oil exploration. Here, among the crazy-quilt pattern of land and water, the question is particularly keen, because this is where Pacific black brant, snow geese and other migratory birds annually shed their feathers, and for six flightless weeks have minimal disturbance and a clear line of sight against predators.
March 2005. Field Ecology in a Cultural Context. By Kerri T. Vierling, Jacqueline Bolman, and Kelly Lane. Science Teacher, p. 26-31. Ecological studies that examine how organisms interact with their environment provide a particularly useful backdrop for high school students to both quantitatively and qualitatively explore the natural world. In Hot Springs, South Dakota, we developed a module that integrated modern ecological theory within an American Indian cultural framework. In this weeklong field ecology course, Lakota Sioux high school students explored woodpecker habitat selection and fire ecology.