Monday, November 4, 2013

Hurricane Sandy anniversary and other climate news from campuses on the campaign trail

I concluded PBS NewsHour on Hurricane Sandy one year later by writing, "I'll have more about the anniversary of Sandy's landfall from Columbia University and other sources after Midnight.  Stay tuned."  As promised, here it is.

I begin with this video from PBS NewsHour, which features a Columbia University faculty member, so I decided it counts.

Climate Change, Hurricane Sandy and How to Cope

Klaus Jacob, a special research scientist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, explains how climate change will turn events like Hurricane Sandy into more frequent and more disastrous events."One weather event like Sandy does not make climate change. But it is a symptom with many other events that will show yes there is something going [on] and we call it climate change," Jacob said.
Columbia University proper had even more about the occasion in Hurricane Sandy, One Year Later.
October 29, 2013
The year since Hurricane Sandy blew ashore in the New York area has been one of rebuilding and searching for how best to prevent the level of destruction and death it brought with it.

Columbia, with experts across multiple schools and disciplines and broad expertise in climate science, has played an important role in the recovery. “We have 700 people in the Earth Institute working on this,” said Steve Cohen, the institute’s executive director. “The Lamont Doherty Observatory has close to 100 doctoral level scientists working on this all the time.”

Columbia students and staffers helped communities rebuild. Scores of Columbia scientists have been explaining the causes behind the storm in hundreds of media interviews. Columbia professors serve on government panels that study how to prevent future damage and make recommendations to elected officials on preparedness and infrastructure changes.
Follow over the jump for more Hurricane Sandy and other climate news from Boston University via its NPR station WBUR, Columbia University, Rutgers University, and New York University, all of which I shared in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Eclipse, Sandy Anniversary, and Fall Back), plus one story I was planning on including in that diary on Daily Kos but left out by mistake.

WBUR: Climate Change, More Storms Like Sandy Threaten Virginia’s Tangier Island
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Virginia’s Tangier Island, on the lower eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, was hit by Superstorm Sandy one year ago. But it’s also being slammed by the changing climate and a rising sea level.

In fact, climate scientists estimate that in 50 to 100 years, Tangier Island could be underwater.

Longtime resident Carol Pruitt-Moore says she doesn’t want Tangier Island to be a memory she has to tell her grandchildren about — she wants them to be able to share her way of life on the island.
I listened to this on Thursday.  It was heart-breaking.

Now, back to Columbia University with two more stories.  First, Oceanographer Studies Clues to Global Warming, Develops Educational Tools for Science.
October 28, 2013
Sonya Dyhrman’s interest in marine biology began when she was a child, exploring tidal pools with her grandfather on the coast near her Tacoma, Washington home. For a science project in high school she studied toxin-producing microbes in Puget Sound that accumulate in shellfish during parts of the year and can cause paralysis and even death in humans if those shellfish are consumed.

Now a microbial oceanographer at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, her research focuses on tiny microbes in the ocean that play a role in the earth’s climate.

These phytoplankton, or algae, consume massive amounts of carbon—a byproduct of burning fossil fuels—and release oxygen, the process known as photosynthesis. Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have made the oceans more acidic, which could have a detrimental impact on marine life.

“We’re used to thinking about the importance of green photosynthetic plants like grass and trees to climate,” Dyhrman says. “People are less used to thinking about the very important role of oceans. Microscopic organisms in the ocean make the planet habitable for humans. Every other breath you take comes from microbes in the sea that produce oxygen.”
Next, Lamont Doherty Scientist Tries to Predict Rise in Ocean Levels.
October 30, 2013
Columbia climatologist Maureen Raymo is trying to predict the planet’s future by looking to its past.

About 3 million years ago, prior to the last Ice Age, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels were roughly the same level they are now – about 400 parts per million. But they arrived there far more gradually.

Raymo, a marine geologist and paleoclimatologist at Columbia’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, is studying how much those levels caused the oceans to rise. From that, scientists can figure out how much of Earth’s land mass may be inundated as the climate warms and polar ice caps melt.
Now, back to where this series started, Rutgers University.

Global Warming as Viewed from the Deep Ocean
The intermediate waters of the Pacific Ocean are absorbing heat 15 times faster over the past 60 years than in the past 10,000
by Ken Branson
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Some climate change skeptics have pointed out that global atmospheric temperatures have been stable, or even declined slightly, over the past decade. They claim it’s a sign that global warming has either ceased, slowed down or is not caused by human activity.

So, where did all that heat that we’re supposedly producing go?

Climate scientists say it went into the ocean, which over the past 60 years has acted as a buffer against global warming.  However, a new study led by Rutgers’ Yair Rosenthal shows that the ocean is now absorbing heat 15 times faster than it has over the previous 10,000 years.  Although the increased heat absorption by the ocean may give scientists and policymakers more time to deal with the issue of climate change, Rosenthal says the problem is real and must be addressed.

“We may have underestimated the efficiency of the oceans as a storehouse for heat and energy,” Rosenthal said. “It may buy us some time – how much time, I don’t really know – to come to terms with climate change. But it’s not going to stop climate change.”
Penultimately, here's some disturbing news from New York University: Instant gratification poses barrier to addressing climate change.
October 23, 2013
Researchers have detected a huge impediment when it comes to working together to halt the effects of climate change: instant gratification.

A study conducted by Jennifer Jacquet, a clinical assistant professor in NYU’s Environmental Studies Program, and her colleagues finds that groups cooperate less for climate change mitigation when the rewards of cooperation lay in the future, especially if they stretch into future generations. The work was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“People are often self-interested, so when it comes to investing in a cooperative dilemma like climate change, rewards that benefit our offspring – or even our future self – may not motivate us to act,” says Jacquet. “Since no one person can affect climate change alone, we designed the first experiment to gauge whether group dynamics would encourage people to cooperate towards a better future.”
As I've written again and again and again:
No supernatural causes will be needed to bring about the collapse of civilization; the interaction of human behavior with limited resources can do that all by themselves. That end will be completely natural, not supernatural.

The flip side is that anything that could also postpone or even prevent that collapse will also be the result of exploiting human psychology and the available resources. It may look like a miracle, but it will be completely natural as well.
And now, the article I left out of Overnight News Digest by mistake, Media Ignore Climate Change On Hurricane Sandy Anniversary from Media Matters.
CNN and Fox News devoted massive coverage to the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, but both networks omitted any mention of climate change in their reporting despite its likely role in the extreme nature and devastation of the event.

Though it is difficult to determine just how much of Sandy's unprecedented destruction can be directly linked to climate change, climate scientists agree that higher tides produced by global warming exacerbated flooding from the storm, and hurricane severity is expected to increase as sea levels continue to rise. Unlike Fox and CNN, several MSNBC segments about the Sandy anniversary mentioned climate change. But overall, just under 8 percent of segments on the top cable news networks mentioned climate change in their anniversary coverage.
In contrast to CNN and Fox, MSNBC mentioned climate change in 22 percent of its coverage on Sandy and its aftermath. Most notably, MSNBC host Chris Hayes devoted nearly one-quarter of his October 29 show, All In With Chris Hayes, to linking the ferocity of Sandy to manmade climate change and highlighting the role it plays in perpetuating socio-economic disparities in the United States.
And people wonder why I watch MSNBC and am a big fan of Chris Hayes.

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