Daily Archives: October 4, 2018

Pre-Release Preview & Discussion: DECODING THE WEATHER MACHINE | Harvard University Center for the Environment

Wednesday, April 4, 2018 – Pre-Release Preview & Discussion: Decoding the Weather Machine

The Harvard University Center for the Environment and the WGBH Science Series NOVA host a special sneak preview event featuring clips from upcoming NOVA film, Decoding the Weather Machine, followed by a panel discussion with Paula S. Apsell, NOVA Senior Executive Producer; Daniel Schrag, Harvard University; Ralph Keeling, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; James McCarthy, Harvard University; Doug Hamilton, Writer, Producer, and Director of Decoding the Weather Machine; and Caitlin Saks, Co-Producer of Decoding the Weather Machine and Science Editor for NOVA.

Disastrous hurricanes. Widespread droughts and wildfires. Withering heat. Extreme rainfall. It is hard not to conclude that something’s up with the weather, and many scientists agree. It’s the result of the weather machine itself—our climate—changing, becoming hotter and more erratic. In this documentary, NOVA will cut through the confusion around climate change. Why do scientists overwhelmingly agree that our climate is changing, and that human activity is causing it? How and when will it affect us through the weather we experience? And what will it take to bend the trajectory of planetary warming toward more benign outcomes? Join scientists around the world on a quest to better understand the workings of the weather and climate machine we call Earth, and discover how we can be resilient—even thrive—in the face of enormous change.

For more information and to watch the full film, visit: https://www.thirteen.org/programs/nova/decoding-the-weather-machine-vgqhot/ .

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Ocean Acidification and Marine Phytoplankton,Ocean Acidification and Marine Phytoplankton

Ocean Acidification and Marine Phytoplankton

Thursday, March 29 – “Ocean Acidification and Marine Phytoplankton”
François Morel, Albert G. Blanke, Jr., Professor of Geosciences; Professor of Geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University

The Harvard University Center for the Environment hosts a special seminar with François Morel, Albert G. Blanke, Jr., Professor of Geosciences; Professor of Geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University.

Our fertilizer is killing us. Here’s a fix. | Grist

Nitrogen fertilizer is a disaster. Abandoning it would be a bigger disaster. Now a dozen billionaires are funding an alternative.

By Nathanael Johnson on Oct 2, 2018

Issac Christiancy was a white-bearded 79-year-old when the shooting over nitrogen started.

Isaac Christiancy Mathew Brady/Library of Congress

It was January 15, 1881, and the U.S. envoy to Peru had to duck for cover. Bullets whizzed through a suburb of Lima, “pattering thick and fast upon the buildings around us,” he later wrote back to Washington, D.C. Christiancy fled, throwing himself over walls and wading through ditches over an eight-mile run as shells from Chilean gunboats exploded around him, until he stumbled into his offices. Peru soon surrendered, and the night that followed was “a nightmare of chaos and unutterable horrors” as the remnants of the defeated Peruvian army looted, burned, and terrorized the city.

Chile had invaded Peru for a seemingly unlikely prize: nitrogen fertilizer. Twenty years earlier, the great European powers and the United States had come to the brink of global war over three tiny islands off the coast of Peru covered in mountains of nitrogen-rich guano. Why would anyone come to blows over piles of bird crap? Because nitrogen gave these countries the power to feed their growing populations. Peruvian guano was, as one historian put it, “worth more than all the gold shipped back to Europe in the Spanish treasure galleons.”

Nitrogen is everywhere. It makes up 80 percent of the air you’re breathing. On its own, it has no real value. But if it’s combined into a molecule with another element, like hydrogen or oxygen, it becomes something that can react with other chemicals. In this “fixed” state, plants can use it to build proteins. Our bodies use those proteins, in turn, to build muscles, bones, DNA, and babies.

But back in the 19th century, fixed nitrogen was limited. In the early 1800s, the English scholar Thomas Malthus warned of famine as population growth began to overtake farm production. Then settlers discovered the guano islands and nitrate mines of South America, and fertilizer-laden clipper ships streamed around Cape Horn back to Europe, giving farmers bumper crops and feeding a baby boom.

Britain’s population quadrupled over the next 100 years. Then in 1908, as South American nitrogen was beginning to run low, the chemist Fritz Haber discovered a way to take the inert nitrogen in air and turn it into the reactive forms plants and animals use. “Haber opened the faucet for nitrogen to flow from the air to the living world,” wrote geographer Ruth DeFries. Instead of waning, populations continued to boom.

This breakthrough solution created a crisis as large as the one it solved. Since Haber’s discovery, humans have nearly doubled Earth’s natural flow of fixed nitrogen, overwhelming the capacity of ecosystems to remove it. The resulting buildup is poisoning the planet’s waterways, creating a crisis some consider even more threatening than the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“Pivot Bio is addressing one of the largest sources of GHGs on the planet,” said Carmichael Roberts, a Breakthrough investor, in a press release. He noted that the Berkeley, California-based biotech might earn a fortune by “disrupting the $200 billion fertilizer market.”

Next year, Pivot plans to start getting farmers nitrogen-fixing bacteria — which efficiently delivers fertilizer to crops, no fossil fuels required. Farmers will spritz seeds with a liquid probiotic as they bury them in the ground. Another startup, Azotic Technologies based in England, is racing to bring a different bacterium to market around the same time. Intrinsyx Bio — a spin-off from a company that supplies NASA with bacteria and other critters for experiments — plans to put yet another bacterium on the market in 2020. And at least one other, the Bayer-backed Joyn Bio, is just ramping up. If any of them is able to provide a viable alternative to the international fertilizer industry, it could be the most significant environmental breakthrough since Haber figured out a way to synthetically release nitrogen from its natural bonds.

Seemingly every startup — even CryptoKitties selling cartoon cats — likes to say it’s creating “technology that will change the world.” But for the companies racing to fix nitrogen, it’s no stretch. If this solution proves out, it would clean up the pollution choking the planet’s life support systems, without forcing widespread famine and a return to the nitrogen wars.

…(read more).

‘Reasons to be hopeful’ on 1.5C global temperature target – BBC News

Dutch scientist Dr Heleen de Coninck is one of the co-ordinating lead authors of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1.5C which will be released next Monday in South Korea. Speaking to the BBC before the start of the negotiations in Incheon, she explained what her role involves and why, despite the enormous climate challenge facing the world, she believes there are some hopeful signs.
By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent
3 October 2018

Dutch scientist Dr Heleen de Coninck is one of the co-ordinating lead authors of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1.5C which will be released next Monday in South Korea. Speaking to the BBC before the start of the negotiations in Incheon, she explained what her role involves and why, despite the enormous climate challenge facing the world, she believes there are some hopeful signs.

How did you become an IPCC scientist and what do you do?

You become one when you are nominated by your own government. So in my case I was nominated by the Netherlands government and the European Commission. There is a selection process with the IPCC because they want a certain mix of nationalities and science backgrounds, and they want different disciplines represented.

It’s basically added responsibility to your normal job of teaching or doing research or work in an NGO or in a company

You read all of the scientific literature. You discuss with your other authors how you like to represent the literature in a chapter and you write the chapter. The chapters are sent out to other experts for comments, and you have to answer all those.

In the last round we had 4,400 comments on the chapter that I’m in, and we have to respond to every individual. That’s a lot of work!

…(read more).

300-year-old Silms river in Canada vanished in 4 days


Tech Insider

Published on Apr 18, 2017

One of Canada’s rivers has vanished.

The Slims river has been flowing through Canada for 300 years, but in 2016 something happened that caused it to vanish in the blink of an eye.

In just four days, the river dipped in height so much that it could not recover. Today, the only evidence of the Slims river is its empty, thirsty channel.

Scientists attribute the river’s disappearance to our warming climate and predict that future rivers may suffer the same fate. They publish their results in the journal Nature.

Storm Surge Like You’ve Never Experienced it Before


The Weather Channel

Published on Sep 12, 2018

What does 9 feet of storm surge look like? We show you like nobody else can. This was the forecast storm surge for the Carolina coast as Hurricane Florence was approaching.

Mosquitoes Carrying Microplastics Up Food Chain? | The Weather Channel

weather.com

A new study shows that when mosquito larvae eat microplastics, they stay in their bodies until adulthood, potentially passing it right up the food chain.