Thursday, December 5, 2013

Climate news while I'm showing 'An Inconvenient Truth'

This week, I'm showing "An Inconvenient Truth" to my students again.  To mark the occasion, I present the climate news from campuses on the campaign trail that I've included in the most recent Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos.

I begin with an entry that relates to the first question I ask my students, "What evidence first convinced Al Gore about the connection between carbon dioxide and global warming?"  The answer was the carbon dioxide data collected by Roger Revelle.*  It turns out that the University of California, San Diego presents a medal in honor of Revelle, as can be seen in 2013 Roger Revelle Medalist, Walter Munk.

Referred to as the "greatest living oceanographer," Walter Munk is widely recognized for his groundbreaking investigations of wave propagation, tides, currents, circulation and other aspects of the ocean and Earth. The 95-year-old scientist and alumnus is still active at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His accomplishments have been recognized by prestigious organizations around the world, from the Kyoto Prize to the Crafoord Prize.
If that's too long for you, here's the musical version: Founders' Dinner 2013 - Tribute song to Walter Munk.

Follow over the jump for more climate research and outreach.

Next, the University of Alabama, Birmingham explores the intersection between climate and health.

Researchers seek better heat wave definition to avert deaths, preterm-births
By Greg Williams
Friday, November 22, 2013
How much hotter it is than normal for an area better predicts the deaths and pre-term births linked to heat waves than just how hot it is, according to a study published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The new study identified which of 15 published heat wave definitions were most closely associated with non-accidental deaths and pre-term births found in Alabama vital records, along with what those definitions had in common. Non-accidental deaths were measured because they tend to result from a combination of disease, aging and heat, as opposed to those more closely linked to social factors, like car crashes and suicides. Preterm births have been linked to heat as well, with one theory holding that heat and dehydration trigger contractions.

“Heat alerts are issued based on weather forecasts and provide a warning to the public that it may soon get hot enough to be dangerous,” said Julia Gohlke, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences within the UAB School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and corresponding study author. “It makes sense then that alerts based on a heat wave definition that better predicts adverse health outcomes would better protect the public.”

According to the National Weather Service, heat waves cause hundreds of deaths per year in the United States. The weather service and state health departments are looking for ways to more effectively warn local communities about extreme heat. Hot weather and humidity reduce the body’s ability to cool, with some research suggesting that it may exacerbate heart disease and breathing problems.

Meteorologists and public health researchers have studied heat waves for different reasons in recent decades, with the result that there is no standard definition.

“The lack of consensus makes it harder for scientists to track the impact of heat on public health and for authorities to communicate the risks to communities,” said Shia Kent, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar in Gohlke’s group and first author on the paper.
Finally, I return to San Diego, where NPR via KPBS describes the latest findings about a greenhouse gas in U.S. May Be Producing 50 Percent More Methane Than EPA Thinks.
Christopher Joyce / NPR
Monday, November 25, 2013
Methane is the source of the gas we burn in stoves. You can also use it to make plastics, antifreeze or fertilizer. It comes out of underground deposits, but it also seeps up from swamps, landfills, even the stomachs of cows.

And while methane is valuable, a lot of it gets up into the atmosphere, where it becomes a very damaging greenhouse gas.

Scientists have been trying to find out, with varying success, exactly how much of this climate-warming gas gets into the atmosphere. A study published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests there's much more up there than previously thought.

"Our numbers for the entire United States are about a factor of 1.5 times larger than the [estimates of] the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," says the study's co-author Scot Miller, a doctoral student in earth sciences at Harvard University.
That is not good news, but it is news that we need to know.

*At least one person searched for this answer.  If they look again, they can now find it.

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