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 →
Climate change is an enormously complex subject, but thankfully copious temperature and precipitation data exist from around the globe that allow for detailed analyses of global and local patterns. In many parts of the globe, increasing trends in weather intensity have been observed, and the most recent data analysis of Caribbean weather reaffirms increased weather intensity throughout the last fifty years (Stephenson et al. 2013). There have been strong rising trends in surface temperatures at several land weather stations throughout the region, but much weaker trends in precipitation than those related to temperature. Still, there were trends of increased average yearly and daily rainfall. The Caribbean region is especially noteworthy because of its high potential for damage related to climate change and high intensity weather events. Continue reading →
When a large meteorite struck the earth 65 million years ago, it killed off the dinosaurs by abrupt climate change; the energy of the strike sharply raised global temperatures, ignited massive wildfires, and filled the atmosphere both with smoke from the fires and dust ejected from the crater which presumably prevented plants from thriving for a long enough time to starve all but the smallest animals (allowing, as it happened, the evolution of humans.) That’s a different cause of climate change than now, and most of us, if we worry about climate change at all, don’t much worry about it being caused by another meteorite strike. But, on August 16, I wrote about a paper published in 2007 that proposed a similar, though not so severe, extraterrestrial impact and abrupt climate change about 12,800 years ago—the initiation of the Younger Dryas (YD) cooling episode that stopped the Continue reading →
Increasing temperatures will negatively impact global crop yield unless agricultural practices change. There is evidence that yields of staple crops, such as wheat, soybeans, maize, rice, and barley, are much lower then they have been due to climate change. Although changes in agricultural practices are necessary, there are economic and political constraints that play a major role in farmers’ management decisions. In order to overcome these constraints farmers seek for the most beneficial solution that will maximize their crop-specific profit margin with the least amount of risk. Lehmann et al. (2013) used models to formulate optimal management decisions in winterwheat and grain maize production under different climate scenarios in Switzerland from a risk-averse farmer’s perspective. The bioeconomic model generated agricultural optimal solutions for winterwheat and grain maize production depending on the different variables and climate scenarios. From these solutions the authors concluded that adaptation to climate change, if economic constraints are taken into account, might not be sufficient to counteract the negative impacts on the crop yield from climate change, therefore a closing of the income gap is necessary to support producers.
This is South Lake, in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains at 9500 ft. ASL above Bishop, California. Looks (and was) rainy at the end of July 2014, but this reservoir, one of the largest on the east side of the Sierra is at the lowest level I’ve seen it in many decades. It is the primary source of water for Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Bishop Creek Hydroelectric Project, usually a 50 MW source of renewable energy that won’t be producing much of anything this year. The problem this year is, of course, a severe drought that may or may not be attributable to anthropogenic climate change (I’m betting it is though.) But drought or not, most models predict that more and more Sierran precipitation will be coming down as rain going forward. So this time of year, South Lake will fill up during the autumn rains, but won’t continue to be refilled by snowmelt as summer approaches, sharply curtailing a major source of renewable energy.