March 11, 2014

Al Roker – Climate Change Educator?

Back in 2009,  TV meteorologist Joe Witte had a great idea. The public looks to TV weathercasters as a source of information concerning weather and climate. Why not use them to education viewers about climate change? After all they are:

1.) Trusted.

2.) Have access to large audiences. (Side note: did you catch Roker’s recent twitter war with Mayor de Blasio over snow days? Meow!)

3.) Are excellent communicators of dense scientific information.

Along with partners, Joe wrote a National Science Foundation grant proposal that was funded the next year.  The grant enabled them to develop a pilot project called Climate Matters, a series of climate education segments that Jim Gandy (chief meteorologist at the station) and his colleagues produced and aired over the next 12 months.

The results? According to an article published recently in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), over the course of one year, viewers of WLTX news developed a better understanding of climate change than viewers of other local TV news stations in the Columbia media market.  Boom.

Check out the whole article HERE.


February 19, 2014

Americans Want Policy Change

The Center for Climate Change Communication At George Mason University recently released the third report from their latest national Survey, Public Support for Climate & Energy Policies

I was heartened (ecstatic, elated!) to learn that the majority of Americans support national global action on global warming. Here are some of my favorite findings:

  • Most Americans (83%) say the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs.
  • A majority of Americans (71%) say global warming should be a “very high, “”high,”, or “medium” priority for the president and Congress.

The support of several climate and energy policies even crosses party lines!

  • Providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (82% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans support this)
  • Funding more research into renewable energy sources (84% and 60% respectively)
  • Regulating CO2 as a pollutant (85% and 55%)
  • Eliminating all subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry (67% and 52%)

Not enough environmental statistics? Need more? Check out the original music video for the song “Margin of Error” from THE GREAT IMMENSITY over here. It’s currently on never-ending-repeat on my iPod.

What do you think? Which climate and energy policies do you think are most important?


September 24, 2012

Icy Antarctica is a Hot Bed For Discovery

Antarctica is known for being a scientific hotspot (despite the freezing cold!) for measuring the effects of climate change, and today there are multiple scientific research stations (such as the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, as well as McMurdo station on Ross Island and Palmer station on Anvers Island) that help scientists stay up-to-date on what climate change is affecting and how.

In 2008, scientists discovered the fossil of a lake ostracod in the Dry Valleys of East Antarctica. No other fossil like it has been found on the entire continent of Antarctica. The fossil finding provided evidence that  this region of Antarctica was much warmer- warm enough to support lake fauna with ostracods- about 14 million years ago. Since that period, it is blatantly apparent that Antarctica has experienced a substantial and intense cooling which has since buried these lakes under layers and layers of ice. What was once a tundra is now an iceland. These findings have given scientists a better understanding of how the Antarctic ice-sheet developed, which will in turn allow them to better understand the effects of global warming.

In recent years, researchers have discovered that the retreat of sea ice in some parts of Antarctica is detrimentally affecting some Antarctic species, and the recent warming of water temperature is adding to the proliferation of  undersea giants in the region.

Look at the size of these sea stars! They’re huge! Antarctica is also the prime location for researchers to follow the changing state of our ozone layer as well as the further implications of global warming’s effects on the environment as a whole.

However, the effects of climate change aren’t the only things Antarctica is revealing to scientists. Researchers are also currently studying adaptations of various life-forms that allow them to withstand the harsh conditions of living in Antarctica as well as how those adaptations may be used to benefit human health. They are also studying how they themselves and other researchers are faring in the conditions of the Antarctic in hopes of learning how humans could survive other extreme ecosystems.

Research in Antarctica may hold many of the answers we seek about the future of the planet in the context of climate change as well as many other fascinating findings. If you want to know more about all the different types of research going on in Antarctica check out the United States Antarctic Program.


February 16, 2012

CSI: Invasive Species

This is a marvelous development in protecting and conserving biodiversity from the Percolator blog of the Chronicle for Higher Education.

Some new research by British scientists suggests that an investigative tool used to help cops find criminals can also help locate the sources of invasive species. (Invasive species are generally considered the second largest cause of biodiversity loss, right after habitat destruction.  Think Asian carp, Nile perch, Real Housewives.  (Just kidding about the last one.)  Anyway:

The tool, known as geographic profiling, has also been used to find patterns in the foraging of animals and the spread of infectious disease.

In criminology, geographic profiling won’t magically point to a serial criminal’s hideout. But it can help determine the probability of where a criminal may live.  To see if it would work on invasive species, the team used a series of computer simulations to compare it with other mathematical methods.

The researchers applied geographic profiling to historical data on 53 species that have invaded Britain: daddy-long-legs spiders, Pacific oysters, Norway spruce trees, and giant hogweed — a noxious weed that can get up to a dozen feet tall and can cause blistering and blindness.

This plant is a giant hogweed, whose spread may be thwarted with geographical profiling. It causes blistering and blindness. It is pretty sinister, come to think of it. Get it off the streets!

In criminology, geographic profiling has two rules of thumb: 1) The probability of a crime decreases with distance from the criminal’s “anchor point,”, like a home or office.  2) There’s a “buffer zone” of lower activity around the criminal’s base. The zone is set partly by the rules of plane geometry and partly because criminals avoid activity near their homes, lest they be discovered.

Turns out invasive species’ spread patterns have similar mathematical properties to criminal-activity patterns: the farther the invasive species are from their source, the more opportunities they have to prosper.  And in some species, the “buffer zone” has even more makes a great deal of sense: for instance, trees from seeds that fall in the shade of the trees’ parents may not do as well as the seeds that make it out to sunnier places.

We can just see the scientists putting on their shades and uttering invasive species one-liners.


February 6, 2012

Here comes the sun, doot-n-doo-doo

OK, so obviously I care about the environment and wanna get people to think about how they live their lives and what kind of impact that makes on the Earth.  I’ve always thought that wind power was an amazing idea, equally as good as solar power.  But now it turns out maybe not, in the long run.

My Earth Science teacher from last year, Mr. Hoekbaard, emailed a bunch of us who run the Environment Club at our school about this article he thought we would find intriguing.  We’ve been, um, discussing it a lot, which is really saying something, ’cause we’re a hyper-opinionated group.  Anyway, it’s from New Scientist, and it’s completely fascinating, and you should absolutely read it.  It basically says that as the global demand for energy grows (’cause of population growth, and more people getting access to energy), nuclear energy is too risky, and large-scale wind power could negatively affect the environment, too.  Strap on your nerd helmet, ’cause this here’s a diagram to show how it works:

This basically shows why solar is going to be the way to go. Copyright New Scientist.

One of the scientists quoted in the article says:

Sagan used to preach to me, and I now preach to my students, that any intelligent civilisation on any planet will eventually have to use the energy of its parent star, exclusively.

If that doesn’t blow your mind, read the last third of the article, about how pulling down cool air from the four jet streams of wind ten kilometers above the Earth could be harnessed to “geoengineer” the temperature of the Earth.  In other words, counteract and even reverse the effects of global warming.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re like, This is all really far in the future.  But it shouldn’t be.  It could start happening more now.

Not sure why? But this article makes me really happy.  Hence, my totally corny title for this post, which is a nod to my mom and dad and their olde-tyme musical tastes.  Also, I’m finally finished with all the stuff I was supposed to do today, so now I can treat myself to the latest episode of “Fringe”.  Don’t worry, I’ll be watching on the lowest-possible brightness level on my computer to save energy.  ; )

 


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