Archive for the ‘A is for Atmospheric’ Category

Observation: Freeman Dyson & Climate Change

Monday, May 12th, 2014

World famous physicist Freeman Dyson was interviewed by Huffington Post.  In the audio story: “Physics Legend Explains The One Thing We Don’t Get About Science,” Dyson expressed his view on climate change. Following is an excerpt:

“The fact is that climate is still a great puzzle, it is scientifically not understood, and the people who are giving advice to the government of course are in a difficult situation. The government demands clear answers, the government wants to know yes or no, is it dangerous or isn’t it, so there has developed a sort of political dogma that climate change is dangerous and undesirable and that it is understood. I just have a different view of that. First of all, it is not understood. It’s also not clear whether it is dangerous. In many respects, of course, we know biologically speaking that carbon dioxide is highly beneficial, it actually contributes a lot to the growth of wildlife and the growth of crop plants. A lot of our food supply depends on carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So in many ways we are better off with more of it. Whether our balance is better or worse is not clear. So all these facts cause me to disagree with the experts.”

Dyson in his office at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.

To listen to the full podcast interview conducted by David Freeman, click here:

Requiem for Fossil Fuels

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

OandA Requiem For Fossil Fuels

“Requiem for Fossil Fuels” is happening at The World Financial Center Winter Garden on Friday, November 12th @ 7:00 pm. Composed and performed by O+A (Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger), the event is FREE to the public, and no reservations are required.

“Listening to our own noise is exactly the feedback we need to change the world,” explains O+A. For the last 20 years, Odland and Auinger have worked together to unlock the meaning of the sound of our cities. They have explored the soundscapes of remote ruined metropolises far from the electric grid, studied the sounds of nature and the sounds of man, all the while asking the audience to “Think with Your Ears.”

Their most recent event, “Requiem for Fossil Fuels,” is a radical gesture that challenges the current politics of the senses. “Just listening we can hear the climate changing. We hear it in the sounds of the lawn mowers, leaf blowers, rush hour, helicopters, jets, air conditioners, etc. These are the sounds from which we will create the performance, Requiem for Fossil Fuels.”

The “Mass,” which incorporates full Latin text with four lovely voices who represent “the everyman,” is set to the resonance of our fossil fueled cities gone mad. It is through this compelling sonic chaos the audience swims, experiencing our love/hate affair with machines.

“Requiem for Fossil Fuels” is presented by Arts World Financial Center (sponsored by American Express, Bank of America, Battery Park City Authority and Brookfield Office Properties). The performance is part of New Sounds Live, curated by John Schaefer, host and producer of WNYC Radio’s New Sounds and Soundcheck. With support from Austrian Cultural Forum NYC, Harvestworks and Electronic Music Foundation.

SAVE THE DATE: Requiem for Fossil Fuels, November 12 at 7PM
World Financial Center Winter Garden: 220 Vesey Street, NYC

Following is a video of Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger explaining their reasons for writing, “Requiem for Fossil Fuels.” Berlin 2008 at the Elisabethkirche. Video produced by Ableton Live for their artist series.

Birds Are Shrinking

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Photo via flickr by Phonton

Birds are getting smaller as a result of global warming, says Ary Hoffman, Faculty Member and evolutionary biologist at the University of Melbourne.

Global temperatures have risen an average of 0.6 degrees Celsius in the last century. What effect that may have on the planet’s species is hard to predict, but a recent paper by Hoffman evaluating data from more than 100 different bird species over the past 5 decades found that many of them have shrunk in size.

“The surprise is that you’re seeing these consistent patterns across a large number of species,” explains Hoffman. “Organisms are getting smaller. So it does look like there are these general patterns in size that seem to be related to conditions getting warmer in particular. I think what’s really nice about this study is the number of species that were actually showing the same patterns. Previously people had taken one or two species and shown these kinds of patterns. If you’re trying to establish patterns related to climate change, I think this study does emphasize the fact that you need to look at a large number of species.”

Read more: Shrinking Birds at The Scientist Magazine of Life Sciences.

Global Plant Growth in Decline

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Photo via flickr by s.alt

Global plant productivity that once was on the rise with warming temperatures and a lengthened growing season is now on the decline because of regional drought according to a new study of NASA satellite data.

Plant productivity measures the rate of the photosynthesis, the process in which green plants use to convert solar energy, carbon dioxide and water to sugar, oxygen and eventually plant tissue.

Compared with a 6 percent increase in plant productivity during the 1980s and 1990s, the decline observed over the last decade is only 1 percent. This shift could impact food security, biofuels and the global carbon cycle.

Researchers Maosheng Zhao and Steven Running of the University of Montana in Missoula discovered the shift based on the analysis of plant productivity data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite, combined with other growing season climate data, including temperature, solar radiation and water.

“This is a pretty serious warning that warmer temperatures are not going to endlessly improve plant growth,” Running said.

Researchers want to continue monitoring these trends in the future because plant productivity is linked to shifting levels of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stresses on plant growth that could challenge food production.

via NASA

Russians Control the Weather

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Photo via flickr by ms4jah

The Russian government has used rain prevention methods since Soviet times, seeding clouds for major celebrations three times a year—Victory Day, City Day and, more recently, Russia Day.

Alexander Akimenkov has seeded clouds over Moscow on important state holidays for many years. He says the Russians use two different methods to try to drive the rain away.

“Either there’s a special machine that spits out silver iodide, dry ice or cement into the clouds, or a hatch opens and a guy with a shovel seeds the clouds manually,” he explains.

“As soon as the chemicals touch the cloud, a hole appears. It becomes bigger and bigger, and it either rains right there and then or, if the clouds aren’t very dense, they disperse without any precipitation.”

There are also private companies that for some $6,000 per hour say they can guarantee sunshine on your wedding day—or for any other private party. Many ecologists agree that these techniques, also used in many other countries for irrigation purposes, do not pose much of a threat to the environment or people’s health, as the period of active influence on the clouds is very short.

But when Moscow’s mayor Yuri Luzhkov suggested the technique could shift the winter snow outside the capital—and therefore save more than $10m in snow-clearing costs—many felt the city authorities were going a bit too far. Even if the idea might appeal to Moscow drivers, tired of constant traffic jams—especially bad in snowy conditions—it has stirred concerns among local ecologists.

“Millions of tonnes of snow diverted from Moscow will create chaos in the areas where it is forced to fall and might even lead to the collapse of bridges and roofs,” said Alexei Yablokov, one of Russia’s leading environmentalists, who was ecological adviser to former President Boris Yeltsin. “Besides, a lack of snow in Moscow would cause many problems in the capital itself,” he said.

“Why do we need snow in Moscow? Snow on the ground helps the roots of trees to survive during severe frosts. If there’s no snow, lots of vegetation—trees, bushes—will die. Snow also cleans the atmosphere very effectively. If there’s nothing to clean the Moscow atmosphere, many people will die—there will be tens or even hundreds of additional deaths,” explains Mr Yablokov.

The idea didn’t come to the Moscow mayor from nowhere, it is based on facts. “In the early 1980s, back in the Soviet period, there was a special service to limit snowfall over Moscow. It stopped working during perestroika [Gorbachev's reforms], when money became scarce. Some eight to 10 planes had to find clouds with the most precipitation and spray them with crystallizing chemicals. Not all water vapor in the atmosphere turns to precipitation, and for the snow to fall, water vapor should concentrate on ice crystals first. So we were making snow fall before it reached Moscow and this work reduced the amount of snow in the capital by 20, 30 and sometimes 40%.”

Regardless of the Moscow authorities’ final decision on snow cloud seeding, Russia remains one of the few nations where weather control is more than using anti-hail cannons and battling droughts.

So if you want to visit Moscow and don’t fancy rain, go there on one of the three precipitation-free holidays.

And if you want to ensure your wedding day is dry—it might just be possible to make it happen.

via BBC

Solar Activity Alters Earth’s Climate

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Photo via flickr by chefranden

Scientists have long suspected that the sun affects climate on Earth, but that connection has proved hard to pin down. Researchers recently demonstrated that the 11-year cycle of solar activity influences weather in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Even then the exact cause remained obscure, since the sun’s brightness varies by just one-tenth of a percent.

An international team led by Gerald Meehl, a climatologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, announced that the sun’s outsize influence results from its combined effects on our atmosphere and oceans. When the sun is at its most intense, ozone in the stratosphere absorbs more ultraviolet energy, making areas near the equator warmer than usual. The added heat changes wind patterns, bringing more rain to the western tropics. At the same time, the extra sunlight causes more evaporation off  the ocean, which adds to downpours in the western tropics. His results should help climatologists predict monsoons in Asia and overall climate in North America and might someday allow them to estimate seasonal rainfall years in advance.

Meanwhile, Henrik Svensmark of the Technical University of Denmark and his colleagues are exploring a broader climate impact of solar activity. He believes that cosmic rays—energetic subatomic particles from outer space—help seed cloud-forming water droplets in the lower atmosphere. During peak solar activity, eruptions from the sun spew out huge clouds of plasma that shield Earth from those cosmic rays. After examining cloud cover and cosmic ray fluxes, Svensmark concluded that declines in cosmic rays lead to fewer clouds, implying that an active sun could lead to warmer surface temperatures. Following the strongest solar eruptions, he found that the sky lost 7 percent of its cloud water.

via Discover Magazine

A is for Atmospheric

Friday, May 8th, 2009


The Earth is not a pile of rocks. The Earth is alive. Based upon the chemical composition of oxygen and reactive gases in the atmosphere produced by the various dynamic processes of life on Earth, The Gaia Hypothesis, proposed by atmospheric chemist James Lovelock, suggests that the Earth is a living organism. In fact, our body is like the planet in that its temperature is regulated. Like the Earth, we shiver to make ourselves warm, and when it’s hot, we sweat to cool ourselves down. As the world focuses on global warming, the Gaian understanding that not only are people connected to the rest of life, but life is connected to a system, has become paramount. The reality, however, is that man is not that special. People have been around for less than three million years, and the Earth has been spinning for about four thousand million years, and in that time, it has seen lots of species come and go. And while industry turns to renewable energy as the solution, Lovelock, in his recent book, “The Revenge of Gaia” says we’re too late, global warming is irreversible and we should expect, by 2100, 80% of the world’s population to be wiped out. However, optimistic scientist Freeman Dyson, who was slated as “The Global Warming Heretic” on the cover of the New York Times magazine disagrees, as does now-deceased famed author Michael Crichton who stated, after the release of his book, “State of Fear” on Charlie Rose, that he doesn’t believe humanity is headed for catastrophe. And although Crichton said that he liked Al Gore, he said he was wrong, in both facts and attitude, and suggests that if science can’t predict what the weather will be like next month, long-term climate forecasts are impossible, and what we are really witnessing today is that drama and crisis gets attention. Whether or not global warming is a “party line” as Dyson proposed or as serious as Lovelock prophesized remains to be seen. Perhaps, the best solution for us right now is just to sit down for a second, look around, and “breathe.”