Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Climate change will throw Australia into a true endless summer

[NY Post] Imagine a city where 265 days a year, the temperature rises above 95 degrees F (35 C).
The residents of Darwin in 2090 will not have to imagine it, because for them, it may well be their reality.
As Australians endure the summer of the seemingly never-ending heatwave, a new report from the Climate Council essentially has one message.
Get used to it.
If the country’s greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current pace, it’s going to get much worse.
The independent research body predicts a rapid rise in extreme heat in Australia in the next 73 years, with heatwaves in all Australian capital cities predicted to start earlier and last longer as the effects of greenhouse gas emissions bite in the next decade.
According to the Climate Council’s Cranking up the Intensity: Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events report, by 2030, the number of extremely hot days — classified as maximum temperatures of more than 35C — are tipped to climb in all capital cities.
But it is the Australia inhabited by this generation’s grandchildren, 2090, where the heat will really be on, if greenhouse gas emissions worldwide fail to meet current reduction targets.
By that year the report predicts Darwin will have a staggering 265 days each year above 35C.
The current average is 11.
The predictions are also frightening in other Australian cities. Read More

Can Artificial Intelligence Predict Earthquakes?

[Scientific American] Predicting earthquakes is the holy grail of seismology. After all, quakes are deadly precisely because they’re erratic—striking without warning, triggering fires and tsunamis, and sometimes killing hundreds of thousands of people. If scientists could warn the public weeks or months in advance that a large temblor is coming, evacuation and other preparations could save countless lives.
So far, no one has found a reliable way to forecast earthquakes, even though many scientists have tried. Some experts consider it a hopeless endeavor. “You’re viewed as a nutcase if you say you think you’re going to make progress on predicting earthquakes,” says Paul Johnson, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. But he is trying anyway, using a powerful tool he thinks could potentially solve this impossible puzzle: artificial intelligence.
Researchers around the world have spent decades studying various phenomena they thought might reliably predict earthquakes: foreshocks, electromagnetic disturbances, changes in groundwater chemistry—even unusual animal behavior. But none of these has consistently worked. Mathematicians and physicists even tried applying machine learning to quake prediction in the 1980s and ’90s, to no avail. “The whole topic is kind of in limbo,” says Chris Scholz, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory.
But advances in technology—improved machine-learning algorithms and supercomputers as well as the ability to store and work with vastly greater amounts of data—may now give Johnson’s team a new edge in using artificial intelligence. “If we had tried this 10 years ago, we would not have been able to do it,” says Johnson, who is collaborating with researchers from several institutions. Along with more sophisticated computing, he and his team are trying something in the lab no one else has done before: They are feeding machinesraw data—massive sets of measurements taken continuously before, during and after lab-simulated earthquake events. They then allow the algorithm to sift through the data to look for patterns that reliably signal when an artificial quake will happen. In addition to lab simulations, the team has also begun doing the same type of machine-learning analysis using raw seismic data from real temblors.
This is different from how scientists have attempted quake prediction in the past—they typically used processed seismic data, called “earthquake catalogues,” to look for predictive clues. These data sets contain only earthquake magnitudes, locations and times, and leave out the rest of the information. By using raw data instead, Johnson’s machine algorithm may be able to pick up on important predictive markers. Read More

Why conservationists can’t prevent the sixth mass extinction

[Indian Economist] The immense challenge of climate change has caused myopia among a lot of politicians, sending them into a self-destructive state of denial. More quietly, though, that immensity has triggered another kind of myopia, this one among conservationists. In focusing on the staggering planetary impacts of greenhouse emissions, they are losing sight of the other ways that human beings lay a heavy hand on the planet.
Last summer, a team of biologists led by Paul R Ehrlich of Stanford University, the author of The Population Bomb (1968), published an article in the journal Science Advances, setting out the problem in stark terms. The average rate of vertebrate species loss over the past century has been up to 100 times higher than the average background rate of extinction, and roughly 60 per cent of large animal species (most of them in the developing world) are threatened with extinction. Another recent major study, this one by the ecologist William Ripple of Oregon State University and his colleagues, comes to depressingly similar conclusions.
The Ehrlich and Ripple teams pointedly note that much of the threat comes not from the indirect effects of climate change, but from direct killing by humans – primarily poaching, the trade in bushmeat, wildlife trafficking, and human-wildlife conflict over resources. Their findings are both alarming and oddly promising as we gauge the future of conservation. There is still time to soften the blow of this sixth extinction, but only if we look honestly at the causes of this catastrophe-in-the-making and alter our behaviour in rapid, well-informed ways.
‘If the currently elevated extinction pace is allowed to continue,’ the Ehrlich report says, ‘humans will soon (in as little as three human lifetimes) be deprived of many biodiversity benefits. On human time scales, this loss would be effectively permanent because in the aftermath of past mass extinctions, the living world took hundreds of thousands to millions of years to re-diversify. The evidence is incontrovertible that recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth’s history.’ Read More

Stonehenge and the Hopi: Hidden Messages Connecting Sacred Sites

[Ancient Origins] The Hopi were watching the sun rise and set at specific points on the horizon from fixed locations in their villages long before the Spaniards arrived in 1540.  Many of their most important ceremonies were based on the sun’s location; the equinox, the summer and winter solstice, and the halfway points between the two.
The Spaniards found them early in the morning, looking east, waiting for the sun to rise and praying the earth would stay on its delicate balance and not roll over. The Spanish called them Moqui or people with running noses.  The Hopi called themselves the Peaceful People or the Peaceful Little Ones, ( Hopitu-Shi-nu-mu).
The Spaniards did not know what to make of the nine large, peaceful villages on three mesas and the people who showered them with hospitality, corn, melons, peaches, and bright colored weavings and baskets.  Why would anyone live in this location with no running water, no soil, no beneficial weather for their crops, and no trees to build their homes? 
The Hopi Guardian (Maasaw), that saved the Hopi before a great flood and brought them to this location after traveling east over a large ocean, showed them the exact location where he wanted them to live.  He also told the peaceful people to expect other races to come to their land in the future, but not to resist or fight them but to welcome them. The Hopi welcomed the Spaniards for the next 140 years, or until 1680 when the Spaniards tried to change their religion. This was to be the only time the Hopi rose in anger and they drove the Spaniards off to the east. Here the Spanish inhabited the villages of Zuni, Acoma, Taos, and other villages that lived on rivers with running water and they converted them to their Catholic religion. The Hopi still wait for their long lost white brother to return to their villages and complete their ceremonial cycles as Maasaw had instructed them.
In 1882 the United States government created the Hopi Reservation. The land was so poor that no one wanted to move the Peaceful People, so the Hopi still occupy the land that they were given in the beginning.  They do not consider themselves to be on a reservation; they are at home, exactly where they are supposed to be. They have never changed their religion. 
Historians believe that the village of Oraibi on Third Mesa is the oldest continuously inhabited village in the United States, although many suggest that Shongopovi, on Second Mesa was really the oldest site, and known as the navel.
It is the Hopi belief that the period of time we live in today is the fourth time the Creator has tried to populate the planet.  This might explain many of the ancient ruins— pyramids, stone circles, and underground chambers— that no one has an explanation for today.  The first world was destroyed by fire, the second by ice, and the third by a great flood.  The first two events happened at a predetermined time and the third, the great flood, came early, or ahead of its time.  How would past civilizations leave us this message?   
What structure could they build that would withstand the fire, the ice, and the water?  What measurement system would they use to convey the message? Read More

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Think States Alone Can’t Handle Sea Level Rise? Watch California

[Wired] Last March, a paper by a geoscientist named Rob DeConto came out in Nature. And as far as geology papers go, it was a big deal: It outlined a new paradigm for how Antarctic ice sheets are impacted by climate change. As the oceans and atmosphere warm, they don’t just melt the ice from below; they create honking cracks in glaciers that make it easier for large chunks of ice to break off, slip into the ocean, and disappear. The effects on sea level rise? They could be almost twice what scientists had predicted for the end of the century.
News of that paper soon landed on the desk of Jerry Brown, governor of California and fired-up proponent of climate change science. Now, he has convened a group of seven scientists, including DeConto, to sift through that study and other recent research to calculate new projections for sea level rise—and, importantly, think about what it could mean for California’s coast. Over the next three months, the team will read, discuss, and synthesize. Eventually, they’ll arrive at numbers. And those numbers will have huge implications for the Golden State’s infrastructure, planning, and the budgets that support them.
In part, Brown formed this committee because an earlier report on sea level rise, just five years old, might already be out of date. The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington commissioned that report in 2010 to describe how sea level rise would affect the west coast in 2030, 2050, and 2100. Since it was released in 2012, California agencies from Caltrans to the state energy commission have used it to make decisions about huge coastal investments and infrastructure, says Gary Griggs, an oceanographer at UC Santa Cruz who was involved with the report. He’s now leading the current committee.
The stakes are high, says David Behar, the climate program director for San Francisco’s public utilities commission. A few feet of sea level rise make a huge difference for shoreline mapping, say, to figure out what areas need to be protected from flooding. Planners not only need to consider the likely level of sea level rise in 2100 (the 2012 report put it around three feet) but also the 5.5 foot rise in the worst-case scenario, plus the 42 inches added by rare but massive storms. (Infrastructure planning isn’t the most optimistic of endeavors.) With prominent, heavily-trafficked locations like San Francisco’s Embarcadero and Oakland Airport just a few feet away from sea level, the cost of a few extra feet of ocean could be billions of dollars. Read More

At 9,000 Feet

Global sea level rise will disproportionately affect much of the US coastline

[Science Mic] In grim climate news, a new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, while sea levels are rising around the world, they're rising faster than the global average along much of the U.S. coastline — including along the Northeast Atlantic.
"The ocean is not rising like water would in a bathtub," NOAA oceanographer and lead author of the report William Sweet said in a statement. "For example, in some scenarios sea levels in the Pacific Northwest are expected to rise slower than the global average, but in the Northeast they are expected to rise faster."
The NOAA report, co-authored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Geological Survey and researchers from Rutgers and Columbia universities, is designed to help U.S. communities prepare and plan for possible consequences of sea level rise. It outlines "six global sea level rise scenarios (low, intermediate low, intermediate, intermediate high, high and extreme) decade by decade for this century." 
As CBS News reported Tuesday, "In the mildest projected scenario, global sea levels will rise by about one foot by the end of this century. In the worst-case scenario, global sea levels will rise by 8.2 feet."
CBS News also reported that even if we don't reach the absolute worst-case predictions, U.S. residents will still suffer — "researchers have estimated that a lower rise of 6 feet would be enough swallow up the homes of about 6 million Americans." Read More