Archive for the 'future predictions' Category

Published by Rosalind on 11 Jan 2011

Glaciers are shrinking

A new study has shown that glaciers all over the world are still shrinking, and the projections predict some real effects on ocean levels worldwide. Interestingly, though, the glaciers are shrinking unevenly, and it looks like European glaciers will melt the fastest. Read about it: Sea levels and Glaciers.

Published by Rosalind on 20 Nov 2010

Scientists study ice for clues to future

Is it possible that global climate change could cause sea levels to rise as much as six feet? Researchers are studying glacial ice and hoping to find the answer to the question. Even much smaller sea level rises would be a huge problem for people worldwide, as cities built by the ocean or by rivers would see flooding and damage to infrastructure like ports. Some low-lying coastal communities would be obliterated unless they could find ways to protect themselves from the rising waters.

Scientists all over the world are trying to find ways to predict the effects of climate change and specifically the rising average earth temperature. Glacial ice is being affected by rising sea temperatures in places like Greenland, where sea water temperatures of 40 degrees can melt the ice from beneath while air temperatures impact it from above.  You can read about some of this work here: Reading Earth’s Future in Glacial Ice.

Published by Rosalind on 28 Jan 2009

Changes

A sobering new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that global climate change is happening and is already irreversible. Researchers found that the excess Carbon Dioxide already in the environment will persist for many years, and CO2 held in the oceans and soils will move into the atmosphere. This means that we have to think carefully about how to minimize the effects, and see if it is possible to stop the trends — so that at least if we are living in a changed world, it will be as little changed as possible. You can listen to a report on the study here: Global Warming Is Irreversible, Study Says.

Published by Rosalind on 21 Jan 2009

Predictions

This little article is from this week’s issue of E/The Environmental Magazine.

Dear EarthTalk: Which parts of the United States are or will be hardest hit by global warming?

— Aliza Perry, Burlington, VT

 

Washington, DC‚s famous cherry trees are now blossoming earlier due to global warming-related temperature increases. But this pales in comparison to the much more serious impacts of more and fiercer hurricanes in the Southeast, major Midwest floods, shrinking glaciers in the West and rising sea levels around the nation’s coastlines.
© celestria, courtesy Flickr

It’s difficult to predict which areas of the U.S. will suffer the most from global warming, but it’s safe to say that no regions will be unaffected. Scientists already point to increased severity of hurricanes on the East Coast, major Midwest floods, and shrinking glaciers in the West as proof of global warming’s onset.

Of course, America couldn’t have asked for a better poster child in the fight to stave off global warming than Alaska, which is undergoing dramatic landscape changes as a result of warming-induced temperature increases, glacial melting and sea level rise. Even Alaska’s conservative elected officials can no longer deny that human-induced warming is affecting their state. The picture isn’t looking too rosy in the western continental U.S. either, which is already facing some of the country’ largest temperature increases. The signature glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park may be all gone within just two decades.

A recent report by two leading nonprofits, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council, details how the 11 U.S. western states together have experienced an increase in average temperature during the last five years some 70 percent greater than the global average rise. The hottest part of the region has been drought-stricken Arizona, where average temperatures have risen some 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit—120 percent greater than the global rise—between 2003 and 2007. Researchers also found that the West has experienced more frequent and severe heat waves, with the number of extremely hot days increasing by up to four days per decade since 1950.

In the Midwest, seemingly minor increases in temperature have already wrought major effects. In 2006 Lake Erie didn’t freeze for the first time in history, which led to “lake effect” snowfalls as more evaporating water was available for precipitation. Likewise, changes in the lake’s water temperature have begun to alter fish populations, which in turn affect birds and their migratory patterns. Despite localized heavier snowfalls, though, the region is generally suffering from a drying trend. Farmers worry that the result will be lower crop yields and thus more expensive food for American consumers.

On the east coast, coral reef bleaching, heat waves and increased hurricane intensity are just some of the warming-related hazards Floridians have had to deal with in recent years. Washington, DC’s famous cherry trees are now blossoming earlier due to temperature increases. Further north, milder-than-typical winter temperatures have been linked to subtle changes in ocean currents. In New York City, the average temperature has increased about four degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, and could get 10 degrees hotter by 2100, according to a study commissioned by the federally funded U.S. Global Change Research Program.

But the bigger problem for New York City, as well as other low-lying areas around the nation’s coasts, will be sea level rise: Climate models predict that sea level around the Northeast is expected to rise between ¾ inch and 3 ½ feet over the course of this century.

CONTACTS: Rocky Mountain Climate OrganizationNatural Resources Defense CouncilU.S. Global Change Research Program

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EARTHTALK, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit your question at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk.html; or e-mail us at: earthtalk@emagazine.com.

 

Published by Rosalind on 03 Dec 2008

Beachfront or Underwater?

This year’s annual meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference is taking place in Poland. More than 40 small island nations have banded together to talk about their concerns. Global climate change looks like a really bad situation for nations such as Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Barbados, Maldives, Philippines and Fiji. They have a lot to lose if current predictions of large global sea level rises do happen, just like other beachfront residential and resort areas around the world.

The threatened countries would like to see real worldwide progress in curbing emissions and hopefully preventing rapid sea level rises. You can read about the issues here: Threatened Island Nations.
For details on the Poznan, Poland conference, see Climate Change Conference. This is an important conference as the world leaders are trying to decide on the baselines for a new international climate change treaty when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Published by Rosalind on 30 Nov 2008

Robots (and especially their behavior)

Have you ever thought about how robots might act towards people in the future? There are lots of different popular ideas – ranging from scary menacing robots like the Terminator to friendly cute ones like some of the Star Wars bots. Recently, plenty of people are thinking about machine intelligence, and the question of how our machines could be guaranteed to be helpful not harmful.

In this article, Six Ways To Build Robots That Do Humans No Harm, you can explore some current ideas. For more on this topic, visit the Moral Machines blog, maintained by authors Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen.

Published by Diana on 02 Apr 2008

Las Vegas

I spent the weekend in Las Vegas. I enjoy the heck out of Las Vegas, but… it really is a flaring example of profligate use of natural resources. Whenever I’m there I always see a dark vision of its potential future.

Bellagio Fountain with Lights

When I’m watching the amazing fountains at the Bellagio, I find myself thinking: “we’re in a desert and they’re wasting a LOT of water to evaporation.” And then I start thinking more.

I see Las Vegas a hundred years from now, the luxury hotels still standing–but deserted, empty, no water, desperate people using them as apartments, trashing one and moving to the next, the gorgeous stone floors broken. The amazing fountains are empty and dry. The Wynn’s waterfalls dry and the concrete decaying. The golf courses are sand traps and dunes.

Desert Springs Preserve

This is the Desert Springs Preserve. A hundred years ago, this was a spring, with fresh water. It dried up–too many people taking water uphill from it–in the 1950s. The city of Las Vegas grew up around the spring, around the source of fresh water, and now it’s a preserve, protected against future development, an oasis of true desert in the urban sprawl of Las Vegas.

And a vision of the future.