Amy Davidson refers to a largely overlooked event called “The Great Famine” that happened in northern Europe in 1315-1317 as a prime example of the disastrous effects climate change and people’s disregard of it can have on humankind.
The famine started in 1315 when rain fell continuously for weeks on end. The foodcrops were spoiling and there was no way to make hay for livestock to eat. When the rains came again the next year and the next, up to a tenth of the population of some parts of Europe died from famine. However, according to Davidson, this specific event was never capitalized because the two events that followed were even worse; the Black Death in 1347 and the Hundred Years’ War that started in 1337, and because the Great Famine happened largely due to the weather, a “prosaic” cause. The seemingly never-ending rain became secondary to the focus on famine, leading people to blame the famine on ineptly farmed land instead of the weather. Today, the same sort of denouncement is seen in opponents of climate change, who pay no attention to, or even renounce climate change. But unlike in the past, there are many who come to the table with projections and the evidence to back it up. It is just a matter of choosing whether to listen or not. Continue reading →
Colony Collapse Disorder, which has troubled beekeepers across the nation and world over the last decade, has been linked this week to stressed young bees, The Guardian reports. Recent developments in bee populations have forced younger bees to leave the hive to forage much earlier than they might otherwise. The stress of these journeys is likely too much for the younger bees’ bodies, which have not finished fully developing; younger bees are not able to make as many journeys in their lives between the hive and the outer world as bees who leave the hive as adults. The result, argues an article in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), is a hive-wide social imbalance that accelerates collapse (Perry et al. 2015). Continue reading →
Our newest book, published on May 6, 2015 and available at Amazon.com for $19.95.
The focus of this book is the interactions between energy, ecology, and climate change, as well as a few of the responses of humanity to these interactions. It is not a textbook, but a series of chapters discussing subtopics in which the authors were interested and wished to write about. The basic material is cutting-edge science; technical journal articles published within the last year, selected for their relevance and interest. Each author selected eight or so technical papers representing his or her view of the most interesting current research in the field, and wrote summaries of them in a journalistic style that is free of scientific jargon and understandable by lay readers. This is the sort of science writing that you might encounter in the New York Times, but concentrated in a way intended to give as broad an overview of the chapter topics as possible. None of this research will appear in textbooks for a few years, so there are not many ways that readers without access to a university library can get access to this information.
This book is intended be browsed—choose a chapter topic you like and read the individual sections in any order; each is intended to be largely stand-alone. Reading all of them will give you considerable insight into what climate scientists concerned with energy, ecology, and human effects are up to, and the challenges they face in understanding one of the most disruptive—if not very rapid—event in human history; anthropogenic climate change. The Table of Contents follows: Continue reading →
West Nile virus (WNV) is a relatively new disease in North America, and consequently there is very little information available about how climate change will affect its distribution. In order to gain a better understanding, Ryan J. Harrigan and his colleagues modeled the incidence of the disease under current climate conditions (2003–2011) to predict how it will spread in the future (2013). The models proved to give a significantly accurate prediction for 2012 WNV distributions. They also projected the range of WNV for 2050 and 2080, which showed that predicted warmer temperatures and decreased precipitation would expand the range of WNV beyond its current bounds. The model and its predictive capabilities may help public health and policy officials prepare for and mitigate possible future outbreaks of WNV. Continue reading →
Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a prevalent, mosquito-borne infectious disease found throughout the Asian Pacific Rim and Southeast Asia and most predominately in China (Bai et al. 2014). The Chinese province Chongqing has one of the highest incidence rates of JE in the country in combination with only four other provinces, make up 50% of the incidence of JE in all of China, with only 26% of the population. Consequently, Chongqing is an interesting place to study the effect of climatic change on Japanese encephalitis, which is exactly what Yuntao Bai and his colleagues did. Bai and his team set out to identify the most important climatic variables that induce the transmission and spread of the JE virus in Chongqing from 1997–2008, and what kind of geographical incidence patters arise in relation to climate change (Bai et al., 2014). Continue reading →
Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are causing an increase in dissolution of CO2 into the oceans resulting in ocean acidification. Teleost fish have been thought to have a high tolerance to ocean acidification because their specialized gills allow them to regulate the pH of their blood. However, recent studies have reported strong behavioral effects of ocean acidification in tropical coral reef species. The studies found that there was a diminishment of risk-assessment, learning, lateralization, and prey detection with increased dissolved CO2. But, little is known about the behavioral changes of temperate fish under the same conditions. Jutfelt et al. (2013) observed behavioral disturbances in boldness, exploratory behavior, lateralization, and learning in temperate fish under end of century ocean acidification conditions. The findings suggest that behavioral changes from increased CO2 are not limited to sensitive tropical species and could affect fish on a global scale by the end of the century. Continue reading →
As a follow-on to the previous post, this paper was just published a week ago and makes it clear that all the targets of Asian Tiger Mosquitos—transmitters of dengue, La Crosse, and chikungunya viruses in the Northeastern US—are mammals, and most of them are humans, cats, and dogs. Humans were targeted more in the suburbs, and cats in the cities. This is quite different from Culex mosquitos, another major vector of human diseases, which primarily feed on birds. Ari Faraji and his coauthors found this out by trapping mosquitos in central New Jersey, then sequencing the DNA in their blood meals. Mammalian blood constituted 84% of the meals, with humans making up 52%, cats 21%, and dog 12%. The rest came from mammals also, including, opossums, squirrels, rabbits, and deer.
Central New Jersey is at the northern limit of these mosquitos at the moment, but climate Continue reading →