Eelgrass Could Save the Planet

Sea grass ecosystems occupy a small percentage of ocean area but account for 50 percent of ocean carbon storage. So why are we letting the beds die?

by Derrick Z. Jackson

Standing in a cove off Massachusett’s North Shore, Juliet Simpson holds a tube filled with some of the most precious mud in the world, mud that could have significant impact in the fight against climate change. But first, that mud needs to revolutionize how we think of sea grass.

Simpson, a coastal ecologist at MIT’s Sea Grant program, is on the search for carbon, and in this particular mud sample, which came from a sea grass bed about eight feet below the water’s surface in Nahant Harbor, chances are she’ll find quite a bit.

Sea grass, also called eelgrass, photosynthesizes carbon out of the water column and then stores, concentrates, and locks it into the soils beneath it. There, because there is little to no oxygen, bacteria can take centuries to millennia to break it down and to re-release it back into the water and atmosphere…

(read more: Boston Globe)

photograph by Adam Obaza

Paris Climate Talks Headed Toward Global Deal, But Is It Enough?

Paris Climate Talks Headed Toward Global Deal, But Is It Enough?

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External image

Le Bourget, Paris—The nations of the world have been talking about climate change for 23 year. All that time they have been adding inexorably to the carbon dioxide piling up in the atmosphere and doing little to slow it. But here at the 21st United Nations climate conference, 184 countries representing more than 90 percent of global CO2 pollutionare getting into detailed negotiations this week…

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This unusual atmospheric phenomenon captured over the skies of Victoria, Australia is known as a fallstreak hole. Fallstreak holes - also known as a hole punch cloud, skypunch, canal cloud, or simply cloud hole - are large circular or elliptical gaps that form when the water temperature in the clouds is below freezing, but the water has not yet frozen due to a lack of ice nucleation. When the ice crystals finally begin to form, it sets off a domino effect, leaving a large, circular hole in the cloud. 

10 absolutely true facts about global warming: 

  1. The decade of 2000 to 2010 was the warmest decade on record.
  2. Over the past century, global average temperatures have risen by 1.4 degrees.
  3. For every two degrees Fahrenheit of warming, the areas destroyed by wildfires increase by 200% to 400%.
  4. The global sea level has risen by an average of nine inches over the past 140 years, with up to three more feet to be expected by 2100.
  5. The upper layer of the oceans are absorbing more and more carbon dioxide — the amount increases by about two billion tons per year.
  6. By 2050, up to 35% of earth’s species will be at risk for extinction.
  7. NASA found carbon dioxide levels to be at 285 parts per million in 1880. Today, it is 390 parts per million and growing.
  8. Earth’s higher temperatures have been linked to higher rates of evaporation, which means more droughts.
  9. Heavy precipitation, such as extreme storms, have increased steadily since the 1950s.
  10. Climate change also affects the geographical distribution of vector-borne diseases, which are spread by fleas or ticks. Ticks, which spread Lyme disease, is expected to take over the eastern half of the U.S. by 2080.

Sources and more information on each of these facts.


“Our Changing Climate” by Jack Harries & Finn Harries


On the Antarctic Peninsula, Scientists Witness a Penguin Revolution

Story by Hugh Powell; Photographs by Chris Linder

This region—the Antarctic Peninsu­la—is the fastest-warming place on the planet. Average winter temperatures are up 12°F over the last 65 years (that’s five times the average global rise). No clearer example exists in the world of the pace at which climate change is coming around the curve at us.

“It’s not so much that it matters if one penguin replaces another,” Donna said. “I’m not going to weep over the death of 10 Adelies or 100 Adelies, or in this case thousands of Adelies. But why are they going?” If we don’t ask that, she said, “We’re missing the big­ger picture…”

(read more: Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

7 climate change facts that even deniers can’t ignore

Global warming is almost universally agreed in the scientific field

Originally posted by micdotcom

2015 was the hottest year on record

We produce more carbon dioxide now than ever before

Originally posted by micdotcom

Global warming costs billions

Originally posted by somepointless

The sea level keeps rising

Originally posted by jtotheizzoe

The ice sheets are shrinking

Originally posted by onegreenplanet

One state’s current problems are a microcosm of the potential, worst-case effects.

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Researchers can now convert CO2 from the air directly into methanol fuel
By Fiona MacDonald

For the first time, researchers have shown that they can capture CO2 from the air, and convert it directly into methanol, which can then be used as an alternative fuel, as well as for hydrogen storage, in fuel cells, or as a building block for plastic.

That’s exciting, because it means that not only do we have one more reason to suck CO2 out of our atmosphere, but it can now very easily be recycled into something useful. “Direct CO2 capture and conversion to methanol using molecular hydrogen in the same pot was never achieved before,” lead researcher G. K. Surya Prakash, from the University of Southern California, told “We have now done it!”

The creation of methanol (CH3OH) from CO2 and hydrogen in itself is nothing new. But what’s cool about this research is the team has identified a catalyst that speeds up the reaction and makes it a whole lot easier.

Continue Reading.

Seeing El Niño…From Space

First, What is El Niño?

This irregularly occurring weather phenomenon is created through an abnormality in wind and ocean circulation. When it originates in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Niño has wide-reaching effects. In a global context, it affects rainfall, ocean productivity, atmospheric gases and winds across continents. At a local level, it influences water supplies, fishing industries and food sources.

What About This Year’s El Niño

This winter, weather patterns may be fairly different than what is typical — all because of unusually warm ocean water in the east equatorial Pacific, aka El Niño. California is expected to get more rain while Australia is expected to get less. Since this El Niño began last summer, the Pacific Ocean has already experienced an increase in tropical storms and a decrease in phytoplankton.

How Do We See El Niño?

Here are some of El Niño’s key impacts and how we study them from space:


El Niño often spurs a change in rainfall patterns that can lead to major flooding, landslides and droughts across the globe.

How We Study It: Our Global Precipitation Measurement mission (GPM), tracks precipitation worldwide and creates global precipitation maps updated every half-hour using data from a host of satellites. Scientists can then use the data to study changes in rain and snow patterns. This gives us a better understanding of Earth’s climate and weather systems.


El Niño also influences the formation of tropical storms. El Niño events are associated with fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic, but more hurricanes and typhoons in the Pacific.

How We Study It: We have a suite of instruments in space that can study various aspects of storms, such as rainfall activity, cloud heights, surface wind speed and ocean heat.

Ocean Ecology:

While El Niño affects land, it also impacts the marine food web, which can be seen in the color of the ocean. The hue of the water is influenced by the presence of tiny plants, sediments and colored dissolved organic material. During El Niño conditions, upwelling is suppressed and the deep, nutrient-rich waters aren’t able to reach the surface, causing less phytoplankton productivity. With less food, the fish population declines, severely affecting fishing industries.

How We Study It: Our satellites measure the color of the ocean to derive surface chlorophyll, a pigment in phytoplankton, and observe lower total chlorophyll amounts during El Niño events in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.


El Niño also influences ozone — a compound that plays an important role in the Earth system and human health. When El Niño occurs, there is a substantial change in the major east-west tropical circulation, causing a significant redistribution of atmospheric gases like ozone.

How We Study It: Our Aura satellite is used to measure ozone concentrations in the upper layer of the atmosphere. With more than a decade of Aura data, researchers are able to separate the response of ozone concentrations to an El Niño from its response to change sin human activity, such as manmade fires.


El Niño conditions shift patters of rainfall and fire across the tropics. During El Niño years, the number and intensity of fires increases, especially under drought conditions in regions accustomed to wet weather. These fires not only damage lands, but also emit greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

How We Study It: Our MODIS instruments on Aqua and Terra satellites provide a global picture of fire activity. MODIS was specifically designed to observe fires, allowing scientists to discern flaming from smoldering burns.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space:

Native Hawaiian Silverswords Threatened by Shifting Climate Patterns

Compared to some plants, like ferns or mosses, the well-named Haleakalā silversword, or ʻāhinahina (Argyroxiphium sandwicense macrocephalum), appears forbidding and invincible with its metallic-colored, pointed leaves braving desert-like conditions in its mountaintop home.

You wouldn’t think that something like a shift in cloud patterns could cause so much trouble to this charismatic Hawaiian plant. But, you would need to think again.

A new study, published in Climate Change Responses, points to how a shift in atmospheric circulation patterns may make a difference in the survival of silversword populations. Paul Krushelnycky, ecologist at University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa, led the research to study the effects of changes in temperature, precipitation, and solar radiation on populations of silverswords over 80 years of data records…

(read more: U.S. Geological Survey)

photograph by Paul Krushelnycky
David Suzuki thinks Stephen Harper should serve prison time for ‘wilful blindness’ to climate change
For nine years, Canada had a prime minister who ‘wouldn’t even let the term ‘climate change’ pass his lips!’ the environmentalist told Rolling Stone Australia

David Suzuki thinks Stephen Harper “should be thrown in jail for wilful blindness” to climate change during the Conservatives’ reign.

For nine years, Canada had a Prime minister who “wouldn’t even let the term ‘climate change’ pass his lips!” the prominent environmentalist told Rolling Stone Australia.

Suzuki, longtime host of CBC’s The Nature of Things, is going to Australia in March to speak at WOMADelaide, a dance and music festival. In a Q&A ahead of the trip, he compared Harper to a negligent executive.

“If you’re the CEO of a company and you deliberately avoid or ignore information relevant to the functioning of that company, you can be thrown in jail,” he said.

Under the Tories, Suzuki said he “had to worry about literally being called ‘enemies of Canada.’”

“…I was going to book a one-way ticket to Mars if Harper was re-elected,” Suzuki said.

In 2012, the Conservative government investigated the David Suzuki Foundation for its spending on political activities after a crackdown on registered charities. Suzuki stepped down from the organization so he could “speak freely without fear.”

Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Today’s announcement not only underscores how critical NASA’s Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice — now is the time to act on climate.
Psychologists Claim Global Warming Making People Too Sad To Care...
Chris White Thinking about global warming renders people powerless and paralyzed, causing them to ignore solutions to climate change, according to environmental behavioral psychologists. In the struggle to find answers as to why so many people... #climatechange #enviromentalists #environmentalism