Concurrent with the announcement that human carbon emissions reached a new peak this year, Galen McKinley, a researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, discusses the difficulties of tracking the sources and destinations of carbon dioxide.
The vast majority of scientists around the world agree that our climate is changing at a faster rate than ever recorded in human history because of our use of fuels such as coal and oil, so-called fossil fuels. The conclusion rests on basic physics known since the early 1800s, when physical scientists first recognized that carbon dioxide, then a recently discovered gas, could act as a sort of greenhouse, preventing heat introduced by the sun from escaping back into space – the “greenhouse effect.”
Twenty thousand years ago, low concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere allowed the earth to fall into the grip of an ice age. But despite decades of research, the reasons why levels of the greenhouse gas were so low then have been difficult to piece together. New research, published today in the leading journal Nature, shows that a big part of the answer lies at the bottom of the world.
Seeing the Amazon’s Future Through the Fog
Scientists have developed a new approach to modeling the water and carbon cycles in the Amazon that could lead to better climate forecasts and improved water resource management.
About 50 percent of the CO2 produced by human activity remains in the atmosphere, warming the planet. But scientists don’t know where and how oceans and plants have absorbed the rest of the manmade CO2. To try to answer these questions, on July 2, 2014, NASA launched the $468 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), its first Earth remote sensing satellite dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide from space.
In the Arabian peninsula nation of Oman, geologists are studying the Hajar mountains–a range containing rocks that have been thrust up from the deep earth. Accessible to humans in only a few places on earth, these kinds of rocks offer clues to the planet’s deep history–and possible ways that natural processes may be harnessed to combat modern climate change.
The desert sultanate of Oman is home to some of the weirdest—and possibly most useful—rocks on earth. The stark Hajar mountains, near the border with Saudi Arabia, contain a chunk of earth’s mantle—a zone that makes up most of earth’s mass, but normally lies inaccessible to humans, far below the surface. Here, though, a sliver of mantle has made its way up to where we can see and touch it. The outcrop has drawn scientists looking for clues to the dynamics of the deep earth; the origins of life; and, most recently, ways to fight climate change.
Following an initial gift last year to create a Masters Degree in Carbon Management, a generous Columbia University alumnus has renewed his support with additional funding toward the preparation and implementation of the program.
In discussing climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a key distinction must be made between the stock of GHGs in the atmosphere, and the flow of GHGs, primarily emissions. Understanding this difference is crucial for designing and implementing policies to effectively address the problem. Because a bathtub is something that most of us are… read more
The oceans absorb nearly a third of the carbon dioxide humans put into the air, and this has helped offset CO2’s potential to warm global temperatures. But many researchers think the oceans are struggling to keep pace with rising emissions. A new study looks at 30 years of data to see how natural variability and human influence are affecting the oceans’ ability to take in CO2.