Environmental and Political Factors Combine to Exacerbate Syrian Drought that Underpins Unrest

by Caroline Hays

Major climate events have social and political ramifications beyond their environmental impacts. In a recent study, Kelley et al. (2015) examine the extent of the drought in Syria that began in the winter of 2006/2007 and consider how it impacted the country socially and politically. The authors find that, although Syria has experienced several multiyear (three or more) droughts in the last 80 years, the most recent drought is the most extreme on record. Additionally, the authors note that three of the four most severe droughts recorded in Syria have taken place in the last 25 years. They connect the dots between anthropogenic climate effects, drought, agricultural collapse, and mass human migration, presenting a more comprehensive picture of a major climate event than is often shown. Continue reading

Drought-Fire Interactions in the Amazonian Rainforest Increase Tree Mortality

by Maithili Joshi

The relationship between fire-induced tree mortality and extreme weather remain poorly understood because it is restricted to post-fire observations of tree mortality. Studies done on the effects of forest fires and biodiversity remain understood on the patch scale, and do not consider the effects of fire on vegetation dynamics and structure. In the southeast Amazon forest, scientists established a large scale, and long term prescribed forest fire experiment in a transitional forest. Primarily, trying to determine if there are weather, and fuel, related thresholds in fire behavior associated with high levels of fire-induced tree mortality across two different fire regimes, and secondarily, what the effects of an intense forest fire are on forest structure, flammability, and aboveground live carbon stock. Continue reading

Could Climate Change Cause Famines?

by Caroline Chmiel

More than ever, the rapid growth of the world population is causing a heightened demand for food. Making this struggle infinitely worse is climate change. Per decade, food demand rises by 14%. Climate change reduces wheat yields by 2% compared to the amount without climate change, and corn yields by 1%. The demand for food causes worry and stress, so the idea that climate change worsens an already critical situation makes the fight to feed billions even harder. This is the bleak picture painted by Eduardo Porter writing in the New York Times. Food price spikes because of increased demand strongly correlate with urban unrest. From temperature changes due to global warming, production of crops can change. Less than expected production often causes producers to ban exports and importers to try to hoard the crop. Overall, commodity markets experience chaos and strain further than just feeding people. The culmination of climate change, increased population and demand for food leads to a serious question about the possibility of famine. More likely, though, is a volatile world full of wars over substances. The most highly affected population will be the poor, unable to afford increased food prices. Continue reading

The Anthropogenic Roots of Increased Flooding in Kano, Nigeria

by Dan McCabe

Intelligent planning for urban development requires an understanding of how different development paths can impact sustainability. In order to better understand what aspects of cities impact sustainability, Barau et al. (2015) investigated historical trends in the environmental resilience of Kano, Nigeria. Kano, northern Nigeria’s largest city with a population of over 2 million, has been a commercial center since the 10th century and has experienced extreme morphological changes in the centuries since then. Recently, the city has been subject to an increasing number of catastrophic flooding events that have caused deaths, exacerbated the spread of infectious diseases, and forced the relocation of hundreds of thousands of residents. As the frequency of extreme weather threatens to increase due to global climate change, Kano’s ability to respond to flooding is of great concern. Barau et al. therefore sought to determine how the city’s evolution has made it especially prone to severe floods. Continue reading

Just Released! “Energy, Biology, Climate Change”

FrontCover6x9 white border 72dpi EBCC2015

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

Effect of Climate Change on Australian and Global Food Production

by Shelby Long

Recent droughts associated with climate change have had immense negative effects on food production in Australia. Australia is an important producer and exporter of livestock, dairy, and wheat. Much of the wheat produced is exported to Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Yemen, Vietnam, and China. The Murray-Darling Basin is one of the main agricultural areas in the country, contributing 40% of Australia’s gross value of agricultural production. Water scarcity is accompanied by a high demand for water for both agricultural irrigation and non-agricultural uses (Quiggin and Chambers 2004). Therefore, it is necessary for crop producers to adopt new strategies to mitigate the impacts of drought. Some of these strategies include land use changes and introducing drought tolerant crop varieties. Qureshi et al. (2013) aim to use the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data and modeling to explore the possible future effects of Australian water Continue reading

Lack of Sierra Snow

IMG_4409 SierrtanCrestAug1by Emil Morhardt

Another shot of the high Sierra above South Lake near Bishop, California, taken between rain events at the end of July, 2014. The snowy patches on the north-facing slopes are all that is left of the once much larger glaciers. Otherwise there’s no mountain snow left and precious little runoff at a time of year the runoff would normally have peaked a month ago and still be going strong. There’s a large fire in progress in Yosemite in the direction we’re looking, but so far the smoke is blowing the other way.