Understanding the climate history of Mono Lake will help scientists understand the future impact of climate change. This is no esoteric question for Los Angeles, which depends in part on Mono Lake’s watershed for drinking water, green lawns, agriculture and industry.
The Sahara wasn’t always a desert. Trees and grasslands dominated the landscape from roughly 10,000 to 5,000 years ago. Then, abruptly, the climate changed. A study by Lamont-Doherty’s Peter deMenocal says it took just a few hundred years to happen.
“One of the ways that climate change is going to manifest is through warmer temperatures. … What we are seeing, in line with our projections, is that even if you assume constant precipitation, the temperature effects are so large that it is going to dry things out. This is going to have really big impacts on soil moisture, reservoirs and stream flow for irrigation and drinking water. The availability of water is going to decline into the future, and the challenge is adjusting for that, and what that means for agriculture and development.”
In the nine-hour drive on the great Dalton Highway to Toolik Field Station one starts out in the boreal forest, which is also called the “taiga,” but the forest eventually disappears. More accurately, trees disappear. Leaving Fairbanks, one drives through beautiful stands of spruce, birch, and aspen trees, but as one gets closer and closer to the Brooks Range, a beautiful mountain range one has to cross to get to the tundra, the climate gets colder, the permafrost builds, and the forest begins to disappear.
When you travel northbound on Alaska’s famous Dalton Highway heading toward the Arctic Sea, the northern edge of the world, you carry a radio to communicate with the enormous rigs that roar along the road, the giant trucks made famous by the History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers. Radio messages between truckers and non-truckers are simple and polite. They let each other know when it’s safe to pass, if a wide load is coming your way, or if the conditions ahead are dangerous or treacherous – snow drifts, slush flows, avalanches, washouts and the like.
Every indication is that thermal expansion will not dominate rates of sea-level rise in the future. As Earth’s climate marches toward equilibration with present-day CO2 levels, the climate will continue to warm. And this warming threatens the stability of a potentially much, much larger source for sea-level rise — the world’s remaining ice sheets.
Why should society care that CO2 is now as high as 400 ppm? The reasons are multiple, but all trace back to the relationship between CO2 and temperature.
Near the end of “Chasing Ice,” a hunk of glacier the size of lower Manhattan explodes, rolls and crashes into the sea. If that sounds like a spoiler, well, go see the movie and you’ll know you would have known it was coming anyway. And the beauty of the movie is that it will still astound you.
The fourth seminar in the Earth Institute’s Sustainable Development Seminar Series, “Ch Ch Ch Changes – recent trends in temperature extremes and hydroclimate,” brought together experts in the fields of climate change and hydrology to discuss emerging trends in global weather events.
A new two-year climate change initiative, led by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society aims to help farmers in Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Bangladesh reduce their vulnerability to climate risks.