Tag Archives: Climate Change

Atlantic Ocean Current Growing Weaker Over Last Millennia


The Atlantic has had an uneasy last few centuries – from a 990 mile patch of garbage found in its northern portion (about the distance from Cuba to Virginia), and growing by eight tons of plastic each year, to the heavy absorption of man-cause CO2 cooking its vast quantities of shellfish from rising acid levels, one imagines what else could possibly go wrong. Now the ocean conveyor system, important for carrying warmer tropical waters upstream into the North Atlantic is gradually growing weaker, with a circulation that hasn’t been witnessed in over one thousand years, according to a recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

So what’s behind all of this, and should we be worried? It seems as though we have enough on our plate as it is, if we’re already looking at fixing the current troubles. Well, the cause is one we’ve been aware of all along. Ice in the Arctic Ocean up north was already at record lows this winter. The resulting cold water seceding away from Greenland’s sheet of ice is slowing down the circulation of the ocean to levels not experienced since the High Middle Ages, according to the paper, an age that also consisted of a considerable warming period before slowing down in the 14th century AD.

The study obtained its data from coral samples, which are subject to bleaching and gradual death due to increasing acidity levels in the oceans across the globe, as well as from ice cores and tree rings to index the Atlantic winds’ long history of depreciation. The research also made use of the sea-surface temperature data found in previous studies (which are often more telling than surface temperatures) to create a new index — one which marks a trend of decline in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). You might never have heard of it, but it’s one of the most important circulation systems on the planet – crucial for distributing the density of ocean water. Think of it as the ocean’s air conditioning system, bringing cooler waters to the deeper Atlantic and warmer waters northward, critical for the functioning of the vast majority of the Atlantic’s ecosystems in sustaining plant and animal life.

According to their data, there already was a powering down of the AMOC that took place in modern times, indicating a depreciation between 1970 and 1990, that scientists have already found. A partial recovery has happened, but not anything significant enough to bring the ocean’s current back to what it was in the days before the Industrial Revolution. It could be another irreversible effect of climate change – something that can’t be fixed even if we successfully do reduce CO2 levels.

The research was conducted primarily by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research of Germany. If their unfortunate forecast is upheld in future studies, it could suggest that as ice continues to disappear in the Arctic, the water it releases “might lead to further weakening of the AMOC within a decade or two, and possibly even more permanent shutdown of its integral components” warn the researchers in their paper’s conclusion.

While these findings might seem “dramatic” to you, as other scientists would agree, the numbers have shown to be consistent from computer climate models that other researchers have been projecting, according to Stephen Griffies, who has designed such models for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.) Although Griffies did not participate in the study or the paper, he is no stranger to AMOC. A previous study in which he contributed was to one that linked abrupt changes in AMOC to a never before seen five-inch increase of sea levels along the Northeast U.S. coastline between 2009 and 2010. Bear in mind that 2010 prior to last year had set NOAA records for being one of the planet’s hottest years. He isn’t alone either. Previous research has shown a link between this same depreciation in AMOC slowdown with some of Europe’s harsh winters and even a spike in hurricane activity.

“It’s inevitable, from my perspective, that we will start to see more and more evidence for the slowdown of the circulation,” Griffies said. “If the overturning circulation slows down further, these extreme sea-level events on the East Coast will become more frequent.”

Michael Mann, prominent climatologist and the director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center was one of the new study’s authors, in which he emphasizes that the rapid depreciation of Greenland’s ice is happening even faster than earlier researchers had projected, a possible explanation of why the winding down of AMOC is taking place at a rate “decades ahead of schedule.” The abrupt slowdown in the AMOC that took place in 1970 “looked like an aborted collapse” when compared with the rest of the data, giving us a rather unpleasant preview of what a “full-on collapse” may look like, a probable event that the next few decades might show us.

Many of you are wondering what, if at all, are the exact consequences brought about by a slowdown in the AMOC, with occurrences as divergent as higher sea levels on the Eastern Seaboard and European blizzards, so what’s the range of what to expect if the decline actually is irreversible? According to Mann, the consequences are somewhat hard to predict, but our own global food security is at risk. Not only do the currents provide ideal waters for the fish and mollusks we eat, but they need to move rapidly in order to provide the flora and fauna with the right nutrients for their survival. Withholding these nutrients can not only lead to a buildup of them in the deep sea, but also a complete disruption of the Atlantic Ocean food chain.

“The most productive region, in terms of availability of nutrients, is the high latitudes of the North Atlantic,” Mann said. “If we lose that, that’s a fundamental threat to our ability to continue to fish.”

While it’s been a staple of the argument of many climate deniers that extreme cold periods disprove the idea of a planet growing warmer, the AMOC could potentially cause parts of the Northern Hemisphere to become cooler. However, this is because the AMOC is no longer transporting warmer waters out of the tropics to different regions. The result of that, according to Mann, is that we could be looking at a sizable increase in hurricanes, Nor’easters and other types of storms, since they provide the hotter weather with new paths on which to travel. Already winters in the Northeast, and pretty much only the Northeastern United States have had colder periods than usual, wh

“If you shut down this mode of ocean circulation, you’re denying the climate system one of its modes of heat transport,” Mann warned. “if you deny it one mode of transport, it’s often the case that you will see other modes of transport increase.”

The new AMOC index “will certainly attract a lot of attention,” said Stephen Yeager, a researcher from the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s division of oceanography. Yeager, however, is doubtful over how reliable the temperature data used in the study actually is, suspecting that the circulation slowdown may actually be due to overall rising temperatures rather than a buildup of melted water from Greenland, and hopes to pursue it in further research.

“The paper presents an exciting new perspective,” Yeager said. “Many of the ideas put forth in this paper will require substantial further scrutiny and testing.”

James Sullivan
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and a contributor to Truth Is Cool and OMNI Reboot. He can usually be found on TVTropes or RationalWiki when not exploiting life and science stories for another blog article.

When Did the Human Epoch Begin?


It’s no secret that humans, in the short amount of time they’ve existed – a little less than 300,000 years in their present form, have had a sizable impact on the planet – well before the age of climate change widely believed to have begun with the Industrial Revolution. While the last two centuries have seen the human race advance to the point of being able to alter climates – processes that typically take thousands of years. For better or worse, we’ve influenced the evolution of countless species throughout the animal kingdom – from bacteria to mammals. We’ve championed vermin like the brown rat and cockroach, and driven countless other species of plants and animals to extinction.

So greatly have we changed the planet in our conquest, that now geologists have sought to label the age in which we live as the Anthropocene. The only point of controversy, however, is deciding when exactly the Anthropocene Era began. Was it with the Industrial Revolution – or did it happen much later – with the advent of nuclear weapons in the mid-20th century? Now, there is evidence to suspect that the roots run much deeper. Many now believe that the Age of Imperialism, the first permanent settlements in North and South America by Europeans, may have ushered in this new era, leaving a substantial impact on the planet that had never been seen before. The research was published in Nature this week.

When analyzing layers of rock, geologists use these layers as a chronology for our planet. Typically, these layers represent periods of millions of years, separated by specific instances of disaster that lie in the narrative of the rock – extreme episodes of volcanic eruptions, or meteor collisions that set forth extinction events – the most known being perhaps the Cretaceous-Paleocene event that happened 65 million years ago, when an asteroid near the Yucatan Peninsula wiped out the dinosaurs.

Currently, in geologist terms, we live in the Holocene Epoch – one that began some 12,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, when sea levels began to rise. However, the overwhelming evidence of climate change – even some dating well before the Industrial Revolution – to Spanish conquistadors mining silver in Peru at the turn of the 17th century – has led many geologists to label the next era as one distinct from the Holocene, in which people have greatly altered the planet from the days when we were mere hunter-gatherers. All that’s left before an international committee of geologists weighs in on the decision, is to determine which event ushered in this new era.

According to Prof. Mark Maslin, from University College London, who co-wrote the paper: “We look for these golden spikes – a real point in time when you can show in a record when the whole Earth has changed. If you look back through the entire, wonderful geological timescale, we have defined almost every boundary in that way.”

Maslin and colleagues have pinpointed the start of the Anthropocene to 1610, when such a golden spike did occur. It was just over a century since the first Europeans arrived, only three years after the establishment of the Jamestown colony in present day Virginia.

Co-author Dr Simon Lewis, also of UCL, added: “The rapid global trade after that time moved species around.

“Maize from Central America was grown in southern Europe and Africa and China. Potatoes from South America were grown in the UK, and all the way through Europe to China. Species went the other way: wheat came to North America and sugar came to South America – a real mixing of species around the world.

“We saw these species jump continents, which is a geologically unprecedented impact, setting Earth off on a new evolutionary trajectory.”

The researchers discovered ancient pollen in sediments on American soil, which show evidence of when new crops were introduced. But that’s far from the entire record. Another golden spike is in the remnants of deadly epidemics, such as smallpox, carried from European ships into the New World.

“Around 50 million people (in the Americas) died, and most of those people were farmers,” Dr. Lewis said on the BBC World Service’s Science in Action news program.

“And this farmland grew back to the original vegetation – tropical forest, dry forest or savannah. And about half the dry weight of a tree is carbon, so all that growing vegetation removed enough carbon from the atmosphere to see a pronounced dip in the global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration that can be seen in ice core records.

“It provides an exact marker of the Anthropocene at 1610, the lowest point of CO2 in the ice-core record at that time.”

Yet, the debate is still far from over. Atomic bomb weapons testing following the Second World War has also left a pretty clear mark that humanity was here. Alternatively, Lewis and Maslin have proposed the year 1964 as the start of the Anthropocene, the year in which nuclear testing was banned across the globe. While these tests took place, however, there was a sharp buildup in radioactive carbon throughout the atmosphere. A sharp drop followed once they stopped.

Although this was a pronounced signal, this radioactivity did not lead directly to any global changes at the time.

Maslin attributes the extreme changes since then to modernization and a sharp increase in population: “In the mid-1960s, there is a huge change in everything around the planet, which is called the ‘great acceleration’ – with the population increasing by 2% per year, unprecedented changes in agriculture and food production – but the marker doesn’t link to that in any shape or form.”

Dr. Jan Zalasiewicz, from the University of Leicester, who chairs the Anthropocene Working Group and was not involved in the new study, said that this new paper offered “intriguing ideas” about where the researchers should begin to look when it comes to labeling the Anthropocene Era.

“The working group will certainly be discussing them,” he said to BBC News.

“It adds positively to the overall debate on the Anthropocene, and to the growing number of suggestions about where it should start.

“The 1610 suggestion clearly reflects a historically important event, though it would need more evidence, I think, whether the criteria they suggest would work better than the multiple signals now known to be associated with the mid-20th century ‘great acceleration’.”

Wherever the mark may begin, the golden spikes are clearly in place – imminent that there is a geological record of humanity’s interaction with the Earth, yet another attribute that may set us apart from the species that preceded us.

James Sullivan
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and a contributor to Truth Is Cool and OMNI Reboot. He can usually be found on TVTropes or RationalWiki when not exploiting life and science stories for another blog article.
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    With the thriving of tropical diseases in regions they never touched before, an Arctic Sea rapidly melting, at temps that could increase by one degree Fahrenheit per decade, and record breaking storms, all tied in with what could have been a deliberate gag order in Florida earlier this week, it seems like the consequences of climate change are more frightening than anything conjured up by a Hollywood action movie – details that were far more adverse than the 2004 epic The Day After Tomorrow. The latest unpleasant effect of increasing tropical temperatures, however, sounds a bit more like something out of a horror movie than real life – a centuries old mummy, unearthed in the Atacama desert, is brought to a museum in Chile, where the corpse slowly degrades into black ooze – perhaps a sort of dark metaphor for the destruction of human lives from fossil fuel.

    Unfortunately, this is beyond metaphor. Over 100 mummies kept in the Universidad de Tarapacá of Arica, Chile — have begun degrading.

    “The tissue change is reflected in the appearance of dark and bright spots,” explained Marcela Sepulveda, who works as an archaeologist at the Universidad de Tarapacá’s museum.

    These mummies are at least seven millennia old, belonging to a tribe known as the Chinchorro, who once dwelled along the South American coastline, throughout what is now northern Chile and into southern Peru and subsisted primarily on fish from the nearby Pacific Ocean. They were at least as ancient as the Mesopotamians, predating ancient Egyptian kingdoms by thousands of years. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Chinchorro, however, was their practice of mummification, which predated Egypt, and unlike the Egyptians who typically only mummified royalty or members of the priesthood, the Chinchorro preserved all their dead in the same way. It was a sacred rite that did not discriminate against age or economic status.

    The first of these mummies were found in the Arica desert, just inland from Chinchorro civilization, back in 1917, known for being one of the driest places on Earth.

    Hundreds have been unearthed, but although the preservation may have worked well for 7,000 years, that’s beginning to change.

    “The tissue change is reflected in the appearance of dark and bright spots,” explained Marcela Sepulveda, an archaeologist at the Universidad de Tarapacá, by email.

    While the ones in the museum are deteriorating slowly, new mummies are being found in an already damaged state, according to Sepulveda. “When you excavate mummies you can see that degradation is already there,” she said. The cause behind this? An altering climate.

    Arica may no longer be so dry. The city has already reported a rise in both precipitation and humidity in recent years. “Everybody say(s) that here,” she averred. Back in 2013, Christopher Burt, a weather historian also noticed a difference in Arica’s weather, a change evident in weather records kept between 1971 and 2000.
    While this may not be directly attributed to humans, it clearly represents a change in climate that has real implications for human life, however unplanned and small it may seem. Ralph Mitchell, a Harvard microbiologist, teamed with the Chilean archaeologists to find out why the specimens were becoming more decrepit. Many of them were uncovered in the 1980s and only about ten years ago did researchers notice signs of deterioration due to changes in the air. “Our colleagues in northern Chile say it’s terribly obvious that the place is foggy a lot more than it ever was,” Mitchell said.

    Mitchell and two of his Harvard colleagues worked with Sepulveda and one of her fellow researchers to determine if climactic change could be responsible, hypothesizing that a greater amount of airborne moisture was enabling levels of bacteria to grow and initiate deterioration cycles on these ancient relics.

    Testing both samples of mummy skin and also dried pig skin, in alternating conditions of humidity allowed them to analyze the types of microbes that could grow off of the skin. More humid environments were invitations for what Mitchell called bacterial “opportunists” to begin their work – finding nourishment in the dried skin. For their experiment, Mitchell’s team used common variations of skin bacteria.

    While the research has yet to be published, the findings were already publicized by Harvard earlier this week. Mitchell’s work in microbiology has already led him to work on the preservation of historical artifacts – ranging from ancient book manuscripts in museums to the Apollo spacesuits.

    The fate of the Chinchorro mummies are just one example of how climate change can significantly impact world artifacts, emphasizing again how climate change has had a sizable impact on so many branches of science. UNESCO World Heritage Centre has been behind this problem for some time, addressing it back in 2007 in a report to the United Nations, stating that “the impacts of climate change are affecting many World Heritage properties and are likely to affect many more, both natural and cultural, in the years ahead.” Obvious spots already are the Parthenon in Greece which has been affected by air pollution for decades, and also many American landmarks in Virginia and Maryland that may have to deal with rising sea tides.

    The U.S. Agency for International Development has also shared its concern over the impact of climate change on these sites, noting where in India there has been a problem similar to that seen in the Arica desert: “Buildings in the rare medieval city of Leh in Ladakh, India, were constructed in a high altitude desert environment and are ill suited to current increases in precipitation.”

    Archaeology magazine listed a similar example several years ago, occurring in a different climate. The Scythians, an ancient Iranian nomadic culture, left burial mounds in modern Siberia as tribute to their warlords, known as “kurgans.” As the permafrost near Siberia is beginning to thaw for the first time, leaving craters in its wake, these burials are exposed to the air for the first time in centuries, leaving them vulnerable to irreversible cases of deterioration.

    “Historic marbles in the outdoor environment are at risk from climate change,” Mitchell said, naming a prime victim of this extreme weather – many statues from the classical Greek and Roman Age of Antiquity. While many climatologists and politicians are working to save the planet’s future from the dangers of climate change, it becomes easy to forget that much of the past may end up disappearing as well.

    James Sullivan
    James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and a contributor to Truth Is Cool and OMNI Reboot. He can usually be found on TVTropes or RationalWiki when not exploiting life and science stories for another blog article.

    Are You Allowed to Say “Climate Change” in Florida?


    It looks like climate change may be the story of the year – now more so than ever before. 2015 comes on the heels of the hottest year on record, was incorporated into President Obama’s state of the union, has been decried as the number one threat to American security by the U.S. Navy, and has even made the agenda of Pope Francis who will address the United Nations later this year. While there is a 97.3% consensus among scientists regarding the acceptance of climate change as fact, there is a sizable opposition to the science among policy makers and the energy industry. Last week, it was revealed that Dr. Wei Hock Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center had been privately funded by nonrenewable energy companies in order to disprove the scientific consensus, publishing several controversial papers with manipulated data to disprove the science. One might think that the tide has turned unfavorably against deniers, but many detractors are still in high places. One of them is Florida’s newly re-elected governor, Rick Scott.

    Despite Florida’s vulnerability to climate change – surrounded by water on three sides, not to mention a long history of hurricane damage along the coast, afflicting Miami in particular, one of Gov. Scott’s earliest policies barred employees of the Florida State Dept. of Environmental Protection from using the phrases “global warming,” “climate change” or “sustainability” in any official documentation or communication, including e-mails, according to recent reports.

    In the words of Christopher Byrd, who served as a DEP attorney from 2008 to 2013: “We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact.”

    Although the DEP’s press secretary insists that the policy does not exist in writing, and the Scott Administration further emphasized that no such policy exists, a number of DEP employees did confirm this fact with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting – that they had been given instructions and warned that even the use of the phrase “climate change” in an e-mail could warrant unwanted attention.

    Even if the policy does not exist, there is little evidence that the Scott Administration is acting on climate change, something that his predecessor was proactive on in the past. Scott proposed $106 million at a press conference last month to go towards averting the rise of sea levels. Although sea levels in Florida are predicted to rise as much as two feet by the year 2060, $50 million of that is going to a sewage treatment plant in the South Florida Keys, and $25 million for beach restoration – which many see as neglecting the damage that may be done to roads, homes, businesses and other infrastructure.

    James Sullivan
    James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and a contributor to Truth Is Cool and OMNI Reboot. He can usually be found on TVTropes or RationalWiki when not exploiting life and science stories for another blog article.

    Did Climate Change Start A War?


    Only a few years ago, reports about climate change driving people to commit crimes were the stuff of scorn – ridiculed by Tea Partiers like Herman Cain and the general public alike, even among those who would readily admit that people were the primary cause behind climate change and already anticipated the disastrous impact it would have on the weather and rising sea levels. Now, it might be time to take the warnings a bit more seriously. You might remember a story by Ray Bradbury about a particularly hot day – how more murders are committed at 92 degrees than at any other temperature, the peak of irritability.

    It’s not quite what happened in Syria, but if you’ll consider the link between climate change and crop failures, it’s clear to see that climate change is inevitably impacting the economy for the worse – eroding coastal tourist attractions, cooking mollusks in the ocean’s increasing acidity and leading to prolonged droughts.

    One of these droughts back in 2011 may have sparked the current civil war in Syria. As farms were overtaken with drought, the farmers fled to cities with their families, leading to crowding and gradual unrest, according to a recent study.

    “Up until now we’ve understood and established that changes in climate may affect human conflict in the future. But everything until now has stopped short of saying climate change is already having an effect,” says Solomon Hsiang, a professor from University of California, Berkeley who has grown increasingly interested in the role climate change may have on violence. While there are a number of world leaders who have either denied climate science or remained largely apathetic about the problem, this new study could shed light on why they should pay attention – another complication that many people, scientists included, may have overlooked until now.

    The authors of the new paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week does recognize a myriad of factors in the Syrian uprising. Among them were corrupt politcal leadership, inequality, massive population growth, and government incompetence in averting the crisis.

    However, their main interest was a compilation of statistics which indicate that shortages of the water supply throughout the Middle East’s Fertile Crescent, an area that overlaps the borders of Syria, Iraq, and Turkey, was responsible for the deaths of livestock, hikes in food prices, sickened children, and also forced the migration of 1.5 million rural residents in Syria to the outskirts of their already crowded cities like Damascus. This massive exodus coincided with the end of the Second Iraq War — which also drove a number of Iraqi immigrants to urban areas throughout Syria.

    After a careful examination of the meteorological data, these researchers concluded that the natural variability of drought season on its own failed to account for the trends in wind, rain, and heat which prolonged it. Along with high unemployment and bad government, the country was brought to violence.

    “Being able to, in a specific region, draw this story line together we think is pretty significant,” said the study’s co-author Richard Seager, who works as a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “The entire world needs to be planning for a drier future in that area. And there will be lots of global implications.”

    Scientists as well as the U.S. military have been arguing for years that this increase in temperatures will eventually render tracts of land uninhabitable, as farms are built specifically according to their purposes. The result will be waves of refugees and continuous conflicts forming as natural resources become scarce. Until now, however, many scientists felt that the discussion was too politically charged, that these claims were based on speculation with little evidence to support them.

    “There tends to be two points of view about this kind of research—either ‘that’s obvious’ or ‘that can’t be true,'” Hsiang says, praising the group’s efforts. “This paper is an important contribution. It’s building on a collection of results that has really gained a lot of momentum recently.”

    The researchers decided to further investigate the outbreak of violence in a region already known for decades of conflict over scarce resources when it became apparent that the drought coincided with spiked violence in the region. “Then we looked at the fact that there had been this warming trend and drying trend, which takes moisture out of the soils at the same time,” Seager explained.

    While the drought was normal for the season, Seager acknowledges, it was also one of the most severe on record, something that coincided with rising surface temperatures.

    The research is not without its limits, something Seager is well aware of.

    “All someone would have to say to criticize it is that all this would have occurred without the drought,” Seager says. “That may well be true. This regime was tremendously unpopular to begin with.”

    Unfortunately, it is also a study that many researchers would not care to reproduce – waiting until there is another episode of siege and unrest somewhere else in the world before analyzing it. As unpopular or unstable as Syria’s government may be, however, its cities would not be dealing with massive migrations had there not been a drought, something that climate change definitely worsened.

    James Sullivan
    James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and a contributor to Truth Is Cool and OMNI Reboot. He can usually be found on TVTropes or RationalWiki when not exploiting life and science stories for another blog article.

    Documents Link Leading Climate Denier to Corporate Funds


    2015 succeeds what scientists had roundly labeled the hottest year on record – already we’ve made second warmest January on record in the new year. Although climate deniers continue to tout the data as skewed, misinterpreted, or merely controversial, the numbers are clear, while the refusal to act is looking more and more like a scam as each year passes.

    Deniers take advantage of making climate change appear to be a matter of controversy. Don’t mention that 97 percent of the world’s scientists have made a consensus over the evidence – say instead that there are cycles, natural periods of warming and cooling, that at one point we thought we were in danger of an ice age (read: one year and misinterpreted data), there is no consistent warming and hasn’t been for decades, or – yes, the climate is changing, but we don’t know how fast or even if people are responsible for the pattern. Most of all, there’s money to be made in green energy – to say nothing of the oil industry. None of them really hold much water if carefully looked at, and even seem to conflict with one another. Yet, we fall right in line because in science nothing is absolute. There’s always room for debate. Winters are still happening, so maybe the polar ice caps are safe after all. Often, any person who’s made up their mind on global warming will have a set of statistics they are ready to jump to – many of which were made possible because of one man named Wei-Hock Soon.

    Soon, who takes the “it’s not our fault” approach to the climate controversy, has received over 1.2 million from several energy companies over the last decade, according to The New York Times. In particular, these include oil and gas corporations, which tend to pay a bit more than solar energy – a tip for any scientists thinking they can get wealthy by investing in renewable energy. This is hardly the first time that Soon has been overwhelmingly compensated for his work. Back in 2011, he received $131,000 from ExxonMobil, funds allocated to study what role the sun had to play in climate change. Despite having minimal credentials in climate science, Soon argues that an increase in sunspots is the direct cause of climate change.

    This is little more than a long recycled argument by deniers – sunspots emerging over the last 100 years have caused the Earth’s surface temperatures to increase. In case you were wondering, the opposite is true, with the past 35 years showing the sun on a cooling trend. The only way to make a correlation between the two would be to deliberately manipulate the data, only revealing a few years when slight increases in the sun’s energy coincided with high temperatures. The overwhelming consensus, in fact, is that changes in the sun can only account for ten percent of climate change at best. Soon’s research, however, is indicative of something else.

    “What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change,” said Kert Davies, executive director at the Climate Investigations Center, in a statement to the Times. The journals in which Soon had published his work are currently investigating the matter deeper, as Soon had evidently failed to report conflicts of interest when his papers were in the stages of peer review, at least eleven times since 2008 – a breach of publication standards and ethical guidelines.

    It’s become something of an irritating post-holiday tradition over the last few winters, to have a chorus of deniers accompany each gust of cold wind, on how the miserable weather proves them right all along. The delight over these blasts of Arctic wind has generally not been seen by deniers (not climate skeptics) since the so-called Climategate scandal of 2009, when right wing bloggers quote mined the hacked e-mails of several climatologists to imply that they cooked the data used in their graphs.

    Among the companies that funneled money to Soon were API, Exxon Mobil, Southern Company and Koch Industries, many of which were sent in the form of anonymous donations through the organization DonorsTrust.

    “I think that’s inappropriate behavior,” said Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center. “This frankly becomes a personnel matter, which we have to handle with Dr. Soon internally.” Soon is a part-time employee of the Smithsonian Institution and has sometimes been falsely represented as an astrophysicist. Greenpeace was able to request the release of the documents through the Freedom of Information Act because the Smithsonian is a government agency.

    In the past, corporations have shelled out sizable sums of money, covering up the harmfulness of products like lead-based paint or tobacco. Climate change, however, has shown itself to affect just about every aspect of life as we know it, with the potential to cause an unprecedented amount of harm throughout the world, and we are already feeling the effects. It is time to approach cases of corporate financed climate denial with that in mind.

    James Sullivan
    James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and a contributor to Truth Is Cool and OMNI Reboot. He can usually be found on TVTropes or RationalWiki when not exploiting life and science stories for another blog article.

    NASA Reports: 2014 Hottest Year Ever Recorded


    1880 was the first year humanity had the capability to measure the average global temperature; 2014 was the hottest year since. According to NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists, 2014 was the warmest year on record. Except for one year back in 1998, the last 10 warmest years were after the turn of the millennium.

    Surface temperature readings collected by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York published findings have once-again proved a long-term trend of global warming exists. NOAA took the raw data from GISS, analyzed it and released the same results Friday, January 16th, 2015. “NASA is at the forefront of the scientific investigation of the dynamics of the Earth’s climate on a global scale,” said associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, John Grunsfeld. “The observed long-term warming trend and the ranking of 2014 as the warmest year on record reinforces the importance for NASA to study Earth as a complete system, and particularly to understand the role and impacts of human activity.”

    NASA Reports: 2014 Hottest Year Ever RecordedThe average global surface temperature has increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since 1880, largely due to carbon emissions and other pollutants released into the atmosphere, with most of that warming occurring in the last 30 years.
    “This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” remarked GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.

    The science community expects to see a noticeable influence on global temperatures from superstorms such as El Niño or La Niña. Weather phenomena can raise or lower temperatures in the tropical Pacific; many scientists think superstorms have the effect of flattening the trend for the last 15 years. Then again, the record highs we are seeing now occurred during an El Niño-neutral year. As chief NOAA scientist Richard Spinrad put it, “NOAA provides decision makers with timely and trusted science-based information about our changing world. As we monitor changes in our climate, demand for the environmental intelligence NOAA provides is only growing. It’s critical that we continue to work with our partners, like NASA, to observe these changes and to provide the information communities need to build resiliency.”

    Regional differences in temperature are more strongly affected by weather dynamics than the global mean. For example, in the U.S. in 2014, parts of the Midwest and East Coast were unusually cool, while Alaska and three western states – California, Arizona and Nevada – experienced their warmest year on record, according to NOAA.
    The GISS conclusions come from a vast body of data: 6,300 weather station surface temperature measurements from, ocean research facility sea surface temperatures, and Antarctic research stations, taking into account variations from urban areas and the spacing between data collection sites. The
    NOAA team used mostly the same raw temperature data, but used an alternative algorithm to interpret the information.

    Jonathan Howard

    You can read the 2014 surface temperature measurements yourself at:
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/
    The methodology used to assess the data can be found here::
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/sources_v3/
    Learn more about NASA’s Earth science activities at:
    http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

    Jonathan Howard
    Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY