On Earth, one of the most important factors regulating our climate is the carbon cycle. This refers to the processes by which carbon compounds are sequestered by biological (photosynthesis) and geological processes and released through volcanic activity and organic processes (decay and respiration). For billions of years, this cycle has kept temperatures relatively stable on Earth and allowed for life to flourish.
For the past few centuries, human activity has tipped the scales to the point that some refer to the current geological epoch as the Anthropocene. According to a new study by an international team of researchers, human activity is also leading to a situation where tropical rainforests (a major sequester of carbon dioxide) are not only losing their ability to soak up carbon but could actually be adding to the problem in the coming years.
Continue reading “As Temperatures Increase, Forests are Having More Trouble Soaking up Carbon”
NASA and the NOAA just announced that 2019 was the second hottest year on record. It barely edged out 2016, the previous warmest year. And both 2019 and 2016 are part of the global warming trend: the last five years have been the warmest five years on record. And the last decade was the warmest decade.
Continue reading “According to NASA, 2019 Was the Second Hottest Year on Record”
When a huge dust storm on Mars—like the one in 2018—reaches its full power, it can turn into a globe-bestriding colossus. This happens regularly on Mars, and these storms usually start out as a series of smaller, runaway storms. NASA scientists say that these storms can spawn massive towers of Martian dust that reach 80 km high.
And that phenomenon might help explain how Mars lost its water.
Continue reading “When Martian Storms Really Get Going, they Create Towers of Dust 80 Kilometers High”
The Martian atmosphere is a lot different than Earth’s. It’s over 95% carbon dioxide, and contains only trace amounts of oxygen and water vapor. But that trace amount of water vapor still plays a pronounced role in the climate.
Continue reading “NASA Supercomputer Simulates the Weather on Mars”
One of the clearest signs of global warming, unless you live next to a glacier, are rising oceans. Now a joint mission involving the US and European countries is launching a pair of satellites to monitor the rising sea levels. The two satellites will monitor the oceans until 2030.
Continue reading “New Satellites Will Tell Us Exactly how Quickly the Oceans are Rising”
There is no doubt that climate change is a very serious (and worsening) problem. According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), even if all the industrialized nations of the world became carbon neutral overnight, the problem would continue to get worse. In short, it’s not enough to stop pumping megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere; we also have to start removing what we’ve already put there.
This is where the technique known as carbon capture (or carbon removal) comes into play. Taking their cue from nature, an international team of researchers from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, have created an “artificial leaf” that mimics the carbon-scrubbing abilities of the real thing. But rather than turning atmospheric CO2 into a source of fuel for itself, the leaf converts it into a useful alternative fuel.
Continue reading “This Artificial Leaf Turns Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Into Fuel”
When astronomers discover a new exoplanet, one of the first considerations is if the planet is in the habitable zone, or outside of it. That label largely depends on whether or not the temperature of the planet allows liquid water. But of course it’s not that simple. A new study suggests that frozen, icy worlds with completely frozen oceans could actually have livable land areas that remain habitable.
The new study was published in the AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. It focuses on how CO2 cycles through a planet and how it affects the planet’s temperature. The title is “Habitable Snowballs: Temperate Land Conditions, Liquid Water, and Implications for CO2 Weathering.”
Continue reading “Snowball Exoplanets Might Be Better for Life Than We Thought”
As global warming ramps up, expect to see Greenland in the news a lot. That’s because its ice sheet is under threat of melting. But that’s not the only reason. The other reason is fire.
Continue reading “There’s A Fire in Greenland… Again. It’s 10 Degrees Hotter Than Normal”
Between the scientific community, governments, humanitarian organizations, and even military planners, climate change is considered to be the single greatest threat facing humanity today. Between the increases in famine, disease, flooding, displacement, extreme weather, and chaos that result, it is clear that the way we are causing our planet to get warmer is having dire consequences.
But there a number of scenarios where the harm being done now could result in a runaway effect leading to mass extinctions. This possibility was illustrated in a recent study conducted by MIT professor Daniel Rothman with the support of NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). According to Rothman, we are in danger of breaching a “carbon threshold” that could lead to a runaway effect with Earth’s oceans.
Continue reading “New Study Shows How Breaching “Carbon Threshold” Could Trigger Mass Extinction in Earth’s Oceans”