Tag Archives: earth

2017 is officially one of the hottest years on record, surprising no one

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

It’s official: 2017 was one of the hottest years ever recorded on Earth. On Thursday, NASA reported that only 2016 was warmer.

Every year, NASA collects data on the planet’s temperature record and releases a report that explains climate trends. On average, the planet’s surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit during the last 100 years, a change that can be blamed on the increasing amount of human-made emissions, such as carbon dioxide. “[T]emperatures over the planet as a whole continue the rapid warming trend we’ve seen over the last 40 years,” Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies that conducted the study, said in a press release.

Notably absent in 2017’s climbing temperatures was the presence of El Niño, a weather pattern that warms up the Pacific Ocean and contributed to 2016’s record-setting heat. Still, in 2017, the U.S. spent a record $306 billion on climate-fueled catastrophes, including 16 billion-dollar disasters such as the California wildfires and Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which also follows the Earth’s temperatures but uses a different method from NASA, concluded that 2017 was the third warmest year — after 2016 and 2015.

This new data means that 17 of the 18 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2001. “What we’re seeing is an increasing string of years of temperatures more than 1 degree above the pre-industrial era,” Schmidt told the New York Times, “and we’re not going to go back.”

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2017 is officially one of the hottest years on record, surprising no one

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Ready or not, winter ‘bomb cyclone’ heads for East Coast

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Much of the eastern United States has been assaulted by brutally cold temperatures over the last week. New Year’s Eve revelers in New York City rang in 2018 in 9 degree weather — the coldest midnight temperature since 1907.

And the worst is yet to come.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that a “bomb cyclone” is expected to batter the East Coast later this week. A weather system only earns that name by dropping in pressure rapidly — at least 24 millibars over 24 hours — in a process called bombogenesis. Winds could kick up to 55 mph just off the coast of New England, a prospect that has prompted local weather stations to warn of hurricane-force winds.

In Boston, which is no stranger to cold weather and has suffered through brutally low temperatures this past week, the National Weather Service forecasts near-blizzard conditions, with just a quarter-mile of visibility.

But the snow won’t be limited to northern states. As far south as Georgia and Florida, forecasters are calling for potentially dangerous winter weather, with several inches of snow in some areas.

In late 2016, Mother Jones reported that climate change may be contributing to such weather events.

The theory — advanced by Rutgers professor Jennifer Francis and other scientists — is that the rapidly warming Arctic is affecting the jet stream in ways that can contribute to bone-chilling weather in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere:

To understand how it works, it first helps to think of the jet stream as a river of air that flows from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing with it much of our weather. Its motion — sometimes in a relatively straight path, sometimes in a more loopy one — is driven by a difference in temperatures between the equator and the North Pole. Southern temperatures are of course warmer, and because warm air takes up more space than cold air, this leads to taller columns of air in the atmosphere. “If you were sitting on top of a layer of atmosphere and you were in DC, looking northward, it would be like looking down a hill, because it’s warmer where you are,” explains Francis. The jet stream then flows “downhill,” so to speak, in a northward direction. But it’s also bent by the rotation of the Earth, leading to its continual wavy, eastward motion. As the Arctic rapidly heats up, however, there’s less of a temperature difference between the equator and the poles, and the downhill slope in the atmosphere is accordingly less steep.

That shrinking temperature difference is what wreaks havoc on the jet stream. “When the jet stream gets weaker, it meanders more,” explained Francis in an interview this week. “It wanders north and south and when it gets into one of these wandering and wavy patterns, that’s when we see these pools of cold air pulled southward.” Those pools of cold air are what vast parts of the country are experiencing right now.

The bomb cyclone is expected to leave bone-chilling cold in its wake — even colder than the last few weeks. Temperatures will likely drop 20 to 40 degrees below normal, the Washington Post reports. That means sub-zero in nearly all of New England — and lows reaching down into the 20s, if you can believe it, in Florida.

Seasoned experts over at the National Weather Service have tips for avoiding hypothermia. President Donald Trump simply suggests we “bundle up.”

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Ready or not, winter ‘bomb cyclone’ heads for East Coast

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Urban hunters are pretty delighted by the coyote takeover.

It started with the cinematic, widely serenaded death of spunky little spacebot Cassini, closing out a 13-year mission to Saturn with a headlong dive into the planet’s gaseous atmosphere.

Meanwhile, back on a more familiar planet, an orbiting satellite named DMSP F19 quietly blinked out. The DMSP weather-tracking satellites have meticulously recorded Arctic sea ice coverage since 1978, which makes them one of our longest-running climate observations. But in 2015, Congress voted to mothball the last satellite in the series. Now, on the cusp of the biggest planetary shift humans have ever seen, we stand to lose one of our best means for understanding it.

Also this year, I started following LandsatBot, a project by Welsh glaciologist Martin O’Leary that tweets out random satellite views of Earth’s surface hourly. Like a geographic Chat Roulette, LandsatBot scratches the same imaginative itch that high-def images of Saturn’s rings do, but its alien views are all terrestrial. From satellite height, every landscape looks like an abstract painting, all fractal rivers and impressionist daubs of cloud.

These days, amidst an unending torrent of Game of Thrones gifs, signs of the end of democracy, and variations on that distracted boyfriend meme, I sometimes come across a Landsat image dropped without comment into the clutter. I stop and stare. Whether it’s an astroturf-green wedge of land somewhere in the Indonesian archipelago or the Crest-colored swirl of icy Antarctic seas, I try to imagine the world down there: A place I will probably never go, without landmarks or footprints, but irrevocably changed by us. Whether you recognize it or not, it’s home.

Amelia Urry is an associate editor at Grist.

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Urban hunters are pretty delighted by the coyote takeover.

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Physics of the Future – Michio Kaku

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Physics of the Future
How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100
Michio Kaku

Genre: Physics

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: March 15, 2011

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


Imagine, if you can, the world in the year 2100. In Physics of the Future , Michio Kaku—the New York Times bestselling author of Physics of the Impossible —gives us a stunning, provocative, and exhilarating vision of the coming century based on interviews with over three hundred of the world’s top scientists who are already inventing the future in their labs. The result is the most authoritative and scientifically accurate description of the revolutionary developments taking place in medicine, computers, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, energy production, and astronautics. In all likelihood, by 2100 we will control computers via tiny brain sensors and, like magicians, move objects around with the power of our minds. Artificial intelligence will be dispersed throughout the environment, and Internet-enabled contact lenses will allow us to access the world’s information base or conjure up any image we desire in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, cars will drive themselves using GPS, and if room-temperature superconductors are discovered, vehicles will effortlessly fly on a cushion of air, coasting on powerful magnetic fields and ushering in the age of magnetism. Using molecular medicine, scientists will be able to grow almost every organ of the body and cure genetic diseases. Millions of tiny DNA sensors and nanoparticles patrolling our blood cells will silently scan our bodies for the first sign of illness, while rapid advances in genetic research will enable us to slow down or maybe even reverse the aging process, allowing human life spans to increase dramatically. In space, radically new ships—needle-sized vessels using laser propulsion—could replace the expensive chemical rockets of today and perhaps visit nearby stars. Advances in nanotechnology may lead to the fabled space elevator, which would propel humans hundreds of miles above the earth’s atmosphere at the push of a button. But these astonishing revelations are only the tip of the iceberg . Kaku also discusses emotional robots, antimatter rockets, X-ray vision, and the ability to create new life-forms, and he considers the development of the world economy. He addresses the key questions: Who are the winner and losers of the future? Who will have jobs, and which nations will prosper? All the while, Kaku illuminates the rigorous scientific principles, examining the rate at which certain technologies are likely to mature, how far they can advance, and what their ultimate limitations and hazards are. Synthesizing a vast amount of information to construct an exciting look at the years leading up to 2100, Physics of the Future is a thrilling, wondrous ride through the next 100 years of breathtaking scientific revolution. From the Hardcover edition.

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Physics of the Future – Michio Kaku

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Wonders of the Universe – Brian Cox & Andrew Cohen

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Wonders of the Universe

Brian Cox & Andrew Cohen

Genre: Astronomy

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 4, 2011

Publisher: Harper Design

Seller: HarperCollins


Experience our universe as you've never seen it before 13.7 billion years old. 93 billion light-years across. It contains over 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars. This infinite, vast and complex Universe has been the subject of human fascination and scientific exploration for thousands of years. The wonders of the Universe might seem alien to us and impossible to understand, but away from the telescopes, the labs and the white coats, Professor Brian Cox uses the evidence found in the natural world on Earth to brilliantly explain the truth of the cosmos. Professor Cox will show how the vast and unfathomable phenomena of deep space can be explained, and even experienced, by re-examining the familiar here on Earth. He is determined to answer the most profound questions we can ask about ourselves and the world in which we live, but in a uniquely understandable way. The laws of light, gravity, time, matter and energy that govern us here on Earth are the same as those applied in the Universe. Using his expert knowledge and his infectious enthusiasm, Professor Cox shows us that if we can understand the impact of these governing laws on Earth it will bring us a step closer to an understanding of our Universe.

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Wonders of the Universe – Brian Cox & Andrew Cohen

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The Rock From Mars – Kathy Sawyer

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The Rock From Mars

A True Detective Story on Two Planets

Kathy Sawyer

Genre: Astronomy

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: February 14, 2006

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


In this riveting book, acclaimed journalist Kathy Sawyer reveals the deepest mysteries of space and some of the most disturbing truths on Earth. The Rock from Mars is the story of how two planets and the spheres of politics and science all collided at the end of the twentieth century. It began sixteen million years ago. An asteroid crashing into Mars sent fragments flying into space and, eons later, one was pulled by the Earth’s gravity onto an icy wilderness near the southern pole. There, in 1984, a geologist named Roberta Score spotted it, launching it on a roundabout path to fame and controversy. In its new home at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, the rock languished on a shelf for nine years, a victim of mistaken identity. Then, in 1993, the geochemist Donald “Duck” Mittlefehldt, unmasked the rock as a Martian meteorite. Before long, specialist Chris Romanek detected signs of once-living organisms on the meteorite. And the obscure rock became a rock star. But how did nine respected investigators come to make such startling claims about the rock that they triggered one of the most venomous scientific battles in modern memory? The narrative traces the steps that led to this risky move and follows the rippling impact on the scientists’ lives, the future of space exploration, the search for life on Mars, and the struggle to understand the origins of life on Earth. From the second the story broke in Science magazine in 1996, it spawned waves of excitement, envy, competitive zeal, and calculation. In academia, in government agencies, in laboratories around the world, and even in the Oval Office–where an inquisitive President Clinton had received the news in secret– players of all kinds plotted their next moves. Among them: David McKay, the dynamic geologist associated with the first moon landing, who labored to achieve at long last a second success; Bill Schopf of UCLA, a researcher determined to remain at the top of his field and the first to challenge McKay’s claims; Dan Goldin, the boss of NASA; and Dick Morris, the controversial presidential adviser who wanted to use the story for Clinton’s reelection and unfortunately made sure it ended up in the diary of a $200-an-hour call girl. Impeccably researched and thrillingly involving, Kathy Sawyer’s The Rock from Mars is an exemplary work of modern nonfiction, a vivid account of the all-too-human high-stakes drive to learn our true place in the cosmic scheme. From the Hardcover edition.

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The Rock From Mars – Kathy Sawyer

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Physics – Scientific American Editors

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Physics
New Frontiers
Scientific American Editors

Genre: Physics

Price: $4.99

Publish Date: May 22, 2017

Publisher: Scientific American

Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC


In the world of physics, very little in the universe is what it first appears to be. And science fiction has imagined some pretty wild ideas about how the universe could work – from hidden extra dimensions in Interstellar to life as a mental projection in The Matrix. But these imaginings seem downright tame compared with the mind-bending science now coming out of physics and astronomy, and in this eBook, Physics: New Frontiers, we look at the strange and fascinating discoveries shaping (and reshaping) the field today. In the world of astrophysics, the weirdness begins at the moment of creation. In “The Black Hole at the Beginning of Time,” the authors discuss theories of what might have come before the big bang. Could our 3-D universe have sprung from the formation of a black hole in a 4-D cosmos? The math says: maybe. Later, in “The Giant Bubbles of the Milky Way,” the authors describe massive structures dubbed “Fermi bubbles” at its center – structures that no one noticed until recently. Technological innovations make much of this new science possible, as we see again in “Neutrinos at the Ends of the Earth,” where 5,000-odd sensors frozen deep within a cubic kilometer of ice in Antarctica aim to catch neutrinos in order to study distant cosmic phenomena. Scientists are also dissecting molecules with the most powerful x-ray laser in the world, as explored in “The Ultimate X-ray Machine.” Even our most fundamental notions of what reality is are up for debate, as examined in “Does the Multiverse Really Exist?” and the aptly named “What Is Real?” in which the authors question whether particles are indeed material things at all. While all of this abstraction might seem like a fun exercise in mental gymnastics, living things must also abide by the laws of physics, which, according to “The Limits of Intelligence,” may prevent our brains from evolving further. Then again, as we’ve learned, things could be different than they appear…

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Physics – Scientific American Editors

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Why Dinosaurs Matter – Kenneth Lacovara

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Why Dinosaurs Matter

Kenneth Lacovara

Genre: Nature

Price: $7.99

Publish Date: September 19, 2017

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/ TED

Seller: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc.


What can long-dead dinosaurs teach us about our future? Plenty, according to paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara, who has discovered some of the largest creatures to ever walk the Earth. By tapping into the ubiquitous wonder that dinosaurs inspire, Lacovara weaves together the stories of our geological awakening, of humanity’s epic struggle to understand the nature of deep time, the meaning of fossils, and our own place on the vast and bountiful tree of life. Go on a journey––back to when dinosaurs ruled the Earth––to discover how dinosaurs achieved feats unparalleled by any other group of animals. Learn the secrets of how paleontologists find fossils, and explore quirky, but profound questions, such as: Is a penguin a dinosaur? And, how are the tiny arms of T. rex the key to its power and ferocity? In this revealing book, Lacovara offers the latest ideas about the shocking and calamitous death of the dinosaurs and ties their vulnerabilities to our own. Why Dinosaurs Matter is compelling and engaging—a great reminder that our place on this planet is both precarious and potentially fleeting. “As we move into an uncertain environmental future, it has never been more important to understand the past.”

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Why Dinosaurs Matter – Kenneth Lacovara

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Climate Change – Joseph Romm

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Climate Change

What Everyone Needs to Know®

Joseph Romm

Genre: Earth Sciences

Price: $10.99

Publish Date: November 5, 2015

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Seller: Oxford University Press


Climate change will have a bigger impact on humanity than the Internet has had. The last decade's spate of superstorms, wildfires, heat waves, and droughts has accelerated the public discourse on this topic and lent credence to climatologist Lonnie Thomson's 2010 statement that climate change "represents a clear and present danger to civilization." In June 2015, the Pope declared that action on climate change is a moral issue. This book offers the most up-to-date examination of climate change's foundational science, its implications for our future, and the core clean energy solutions. Alongside detailed but highly accessible descriptions of what is causing climate change, this entry in the What Everyone Needs to Know series answers questions about the practical implications of this growing force on our world: · How will climate change impact you and your family in the coming decades? · What are the future implications for owners of coastal property? · Should you plan on retiring in South Florida or the U.S. Southwest or Southern Europe? · What occupations and fields of study will be most in demand in a globally warmed world? · What impact will climate change have on investments and the global economy? As the world struggles to stem climate change and its effects, everyone will become a part of this story of the century. Here is what you need to know.

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Climate Change – Joseph Romm

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Zinke doesn’t want to eliminate our beautiful national monuments, so he’s shrinking them

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday delivered his long-awaited recommendations on the fate of 27 national monuments that the Trump administration is considering opening up for mining and drilling. Zinke’s verdict, it turns out, is a confusing one.

The Associated Press was first with the story, with a headline that originally read, “Zinke Won’t Eliminate Any National Monuments.” That seems to suggest good news, but the story goes on to note that Zinke said he is recommending that President Donald Trump make changes to a “handful” of monuments. Conservationists say this is exactly what they feared: They don’t know what those changes mean or which monuments will be targeted, because Zinke has been vague on what’s in his report to Trump. But the administration may intend to shrink monuments in New Mexico, California, and Utah — including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, monuments that are important to Native Americans.

“First and foremost I think this news shows how arbitrary the process has been,” says Dan Hartinger, the Wilderness Society’s deputy director for Parks and Public Lands Defense. “Talking about them as a ‘handful’ of monuments is something that’s neither acceptable or respectful of the critical cultural and sacred sites.” Hartinger noted that Zinke’s phrasing seemed to try to frame the decision “as some generous gift or compromise,” when the threat of shrinking protected lands is actually a major blow to conservation. Aaron Weiss, a spokesperson for the Center for Western Priorities, agreed. “A handful could be two; a handful could be eight or 10,” he said. “An attack on one monument is an attack on all of them.”

Conservationists predict Trump intends to shrink some existing monuments to open up lands for new mining and drilling operations, a potential move that Friends of the Earth’s Ben Schreiber described as a “blatant handouts to the oil and gas industry.” Any such land would still be federally managed, but losing monument status would strip it of national park-like protections, which forbid new leases for grazing, oil, gas, and mining.

If Trump does attempt to shrink any monuments, he will invite the first constitutional test of the 1906 Antiquities Act, a law signed by Teddy Roosevelt giving presidents the power to create land and marine monuments. In over a century, no president has attempted to reshape national monuments in the way Trump is attempting to do. In 1938, the Department of Justice opined that the president has the power to create monuments but not revoke them. While a few presidents have shrunk predecessors’ monuments — Woodrow Wilson did, for example — those moves weren’t challenged in the courts. Trump’s decisions will almost certainly be challenged both by Native American tribes and environmental groups.

In late April, Trump directed Zinke to review 27 large land and marine monuments created since 1996, a date that was meant to include two controversial monuments in southern Utah: the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante, created by Bill Clinton in 1996, and the 1.4 million-acre Bears Ears, created by Barack Obama. Native American tribes were among the leading supporters of the Bears Ears monument, which Utah Republican officials fiercely opposed.

Environmentalists have been particularly dismayed by the Trump administration’s bizarre process for reviewing the monuments. “Secretary Zinke’s so-called review of parks and monuments has been a complete sham, with arbitrary criteria for ‘pardoning’ some national monuments while attacking others,” League of Conservation Voters’ President Gene Karpinski said in a statement.

Zinke’s review often seemed to be more focused on pageantry than on preparing for the inevitable lawsuits that would come his way if his recommendations are implemented. The former Montana congressman and self-styled Roosevelt conservationist often came under fire for tightly controlling his public appearances while he spent four months visiting some of the country’s most beautiful monuments. Interior’s social media feeds are filled with photos of him kayaking, flying on a helicopter, and hiking. He surveyed Bears Ears on horseback.

“This exercise was nothing more than a pretext for selling out our public lands and waters as a political favor to Big Oil and other special interests who want to pad their profits,” said Karpinski.

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Zinke doesn’t want to eliminate our beautiful national monuments, so he’s shrinking them

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