Surferbird News-links, 67th Edition
Tracking CO₂, future California floods, U.S. cold snap and climate change, 2017 climate news, climate change and beer, agrobiodiversity, angioplasty, repairing household goods, salmon fishing and Chicago.
Welcome to Surferbird News-links! I miss writing these posts so much, but I've been busy drafting story ideas to pitch to media outlets. I'm still so green. And on that note, I'm accepting all positive thoughts, prayers, energy and any other encouraging vibes you care to send through the airwaves.
So many important stories have been in the news, though, that I couldn't resist taking a break from pitching to share some updates.
News from my wood
But first, I have a story to tell about something that happened last week while I was running errands. Because I'm on the chatty side, I fell into conversation with a woman who wanted to know what I did for a living. I hemmed and hawed before replying that I had published a piece on cotton and climate change last February and was working on publishing more stories. "Oh, I hope the climate isn't going to change much more," she said. I made a face. "Surely our beloved cotton will be safe, won't it?" I made another face as her eyebrows rose. "Hmm, maybe I better read that article." Then, she quickly changed the subject.
Most people still don't get the seriousness of climate change. My experience with this woman inspired me to write a post because the more we know, the easier it is to talk about global warming with other people. So, here I am sharing another Surferbird News-links, hoping I'll somehow make a difference, even if it's small.
sign up for climate point
Also, I'd like to introduce you to Sammy Roth, a journalist with The Desert Sun and USA Today. Sammy publishes a free weekly newsletter called Climate Point, which covers timely news on climate change and the environment. And, I might add, Sammy often reports on topics that I don't. His wry sense of humor and enthusiasm effortlessly come across in his writing. You can sign up for Climate Point, here. I look forward to reading each edition and hope that you will too.
Except for wishing everyone a glorious New Year, that's all the business for today. So, let's dive into those news-links!
tracking CO₂ and higher global temperatures, (vox.com)
This is the coolest animation graph, created by software engineer Kevin Pluck. What I like most about it, however, is that even with annual and seasonal variations in temperature, the graph illustrates the overall upward trend, not that I'm happy about that. But notice, also, how CO₂ levels steadily climb. It's an excellent visual that explains our predicament all too well.
Climate change and horrendous floods in California, (features.weather.com)
Parts of California are at risk of experiencing megafloods in addition to erosion and crumbling cliffsides. And I can't imagine a better way to convey this information than by telling a story, which is how much of this piece from weather.com reads. Quite frankly, I would like to see scientists write more articles similar to this one because they communicate the potential impacts of climate change clearly and with abandon.
These megafloods have happened in the past. But according to the article, we can expect more in the future because of an increase in powerful atmospheric rivers (ARs) caused by global warming. As temperatures increase, Earth's atmosphere holds more water, which intensifies ARs. All of this moisture falls as precipitation. Last winter, ARs caused a lot of damage in California, but it could have been worse. Even more worrisome, though, is that California's infrastructure isn't prepared for large-scale flooding events.
I imagine that many of you won't find this interesting because you don't live in California. But if you do, or if you have friends and family members who live in California, I recommend giving this a read. Also, it contains helpful resources, such as floodplain and levee maps. You can even learn what the flood risks are in your neighborhood. And I highly recommend that you do that before the next flood occurs.
what's up with all the cold weather across the country?, (usatoday.com)
Even though much of the U.S. is experiencing extreme winter weather this week, 2017 will still rank as the second or third warmest year on record. There will always be seasonal variations; but measuring weather patterns over time is the real benchmark for climate change.
Yet, it's also important to consider that the current cold snap is most likely a result of climate change (according the scientist quoted in the article) because of how melting arctic sea ice affects polar vortex winds, which help buffer much of the northern hemisphere from arctic air. As arctic sea ice melts, heat moves from the ocean into the atmosphere, weakening the winds. This allows colder air to move away from the Arctic and into more southerly parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
Some scientists, however, think that extreme cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere is due to the fact that the temperature difference between lower latitudes and the Arctic is lessening. This in turn causes the jet stream to wobble, pulling cold air from the Arctic, southward. You can read about the underlying causes behind a weakening polar vortex and the jet stream, here.
To compare Mars' current temperature with current temperatures in parts of North America, check out this interesting article in The Atlantic. You're in for a big surprise!
10 noteworthy climate trends from 2017, (climatecentral.org)
Did you know that Gulf Coast and East Coast cities could see more than 10 feet of sea-level rise this century? That's huge! But this piece from Climate Central also includes other important stories from 2017 that you'll not want to miss— from hurricanes and fires to Tesla's accomplishments and more. It's a short read, but I'll give you one more spoiler: Transportation now emits more carbon dioxide than any other industry. Electricity production used to be first. But thanks to renewables, first place now belongs to cars and other modes of hopping around the planet.
food and farming
Climate change in Montana, barley and your beer, (thefern.org)
Hot, dry conditions and the rise of unpredictable rainstorms are turning malt barley, which is grown for the brewing industry, into animal feed. Even though barley farmers continue to have some good years mixed in with the bad, climate change is increasing the risks of producing undervalued crops, which malthouses reject. And drier summers along with wetter winters are predicted to occur even more often in the future. Possible solutions include growing cold-tolerant varieties that can be harvested before the weather gets hot and heavy rains arrive.
One of the most fascinating parts of this piece, however, highlights the history of why Russia imports wheat from the U.S. and not the reverse. I'll give you a clue: It involves a Russian scientist who saved seeds from barley, wheat and other grains and the Stalinist regime that didn't support the scientific principles behind plant breeding. Hmm, the Russian government's distrust of science during that era sounds familiar.
due to cultural, ECONOMIC and ENVIRONMENTAL changes, we're growing fewer varieties of produce: that's not good, (undark.org)
Why aren't we growing as many different kinds of crops as we used to? Interestingly, it's the wealthier nations that grow the fewest varieties because of their emphasis on commodity crops (in the U.S.), yields, genetic uniformity and ease of transportation and storage. Having affordable access to irrigation has played a role, too. But it's genetic variation that protects against pests, disease, drought and climate change while also providing the rich array of nutrients our bodies need to be healthy. Fortunately, interest in agrobiodiversity is growing in the U.S., which couldn't come at a better time, given our tendency to favor industrial foods that promote obesity.
But there's more to learn in this piece from Undark, such as the important role of Peruvian potatoes in U.S. and European breeding programs and the struggle to protect and promote agrobiodiversity among Peruvian farmers. And as our climate changes, having a wider selection of crops will become increasingly important in creating a more resilient food supply.
health and home
new data makes doctors question whether angioplasty is a good idea, (theatlantic.com)
I suspect you know or know of someone who's had angioplasty—the process cardiologists use to open clogged and hardened arteries. But what if patients claim to feel better after the procedure because of the placebo effect? One study showed no benefits to angioplasty in reducing future heart attacks over taking medication alone. That is profound. But, unsurprisingly, some doctors disagree with the study's conclusions while others support the need for further research. It may take a while to untangle the results of this study and the implications for heart patients. Perhaps, though, the heart is far more nuanced than clogged plumbing. Could we imagine the heart in a different light?
science and technology
In my opinion, this could be our future—repairing household goods instead of throwing them away. The Earth has a limited supply of natural resources, and we're plowing through them as fast as we can while adding more stuff to our landfills. Here's an interesting piece on the world's natural resources from phys.org and a solutions-focused article from Forbes. Also, inquire if your city has a Makerspace community because they often sponsor repair workshops. Meanwhile, enjoy this inspiring, short video from Ensia!
fishing for salmon in british columbia, (hcn.org)
This breathtaking essay captures the essence of fishing for salmon in the Pacific Northwest and the struggle between fisherman and fish. I'll always remember the part where the the author kisses his prey. That's a powerful image.
Not everyone appreciates the band, Chicago. Is it the horns? Yet, I love the blending of instruments. If you're up for a trip down memory lane, here's a piece about Chicago in Rolling Stone, which includes a video of "25 or 6 to 4." It's worth watching for the guitar riff, alone. I used to think the song was about the 60s and 70s drug culture. Which pill do I take, number 25 or number 64? If you're interested in the song's true meaning, there's an article about that, here. And it's not about drugs at all. Granted, the joke's on me. But since "Beginnings" seemed like a better way to ring in the New Year, I'll leave you to explore "25 or 6 to 4" on your own. Happy New Year! Laura