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Earth Matters

News Roundup: Whipsaw Weather, a Shrinking Lake, and a Grandfather Speaks Up

March 30th, 2012 by Adam Voiland

Global Warming and Whipsaw Weather

Perhaps you’ve noticed that we’ve had a record-shattering heat wave across much of North America in recent months, whereas Europe and Asia have experienced an unusually cold winter. That’s to be expected according to a new report on extreme weather published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report points out that it’s “very likely” that we’ve seen an overall increase in both cold and warm days (and nights) since 1950 due to global warming. Another recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, came to a similar conclusion, noting that the evidence for global warming as the cause of increases in heat waves and precipitation extremes is particularly robust.

Raise Your Glass to Water
March 22nd was World Water Day. Where is the world’s water? You’ve likely heard that  oceans hold 97 percent of it. That’s true, but the numbers get even more interesting when you start to consider some of the less voluminous places where water resides. As this story noted, swamps hold four times as much water as the world’s rivers (0.0008 percent versus 0.0002 percent); and the atmosphere holds more than both (0.001 percent). Want to learn about the blue stuff? A new 30-second animation based on data from the GRACE satellites is on display at Times Square through April 22nd. And though Gothamist suspects it may actually be a Van Gogh painting, NASA’s Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio has a new visualization (below) of the ocean’s surface currents that’s going viral.

What’s Causing Lake Poyang to Dry?
Poyang Lake in China has seen better days. Once China’s largest lake, it shrunk to just a fraction of its usual size this winter. Scientists are working to understand exactly what’s causing the decline in water levels, but an ongoing drought has surely played a role. The Three Gorges Dam, which is upriver, has likely contributed to the drawdown as well. Remote Sensing of the Environment recently published a study of data from the MODIS instrument that documents the dramatic fluctuation in lake levels between 2000 and 2010. The authors conclude Poyang Lake covered 3,163 square kilometers (1,220 square miles) in August of 2010, but only 714 kilometers (275 square miles) in October of 2010. (In recent months, the size of the lake has dipped to less than 200 square kilometers (77 square miles.) Overall, the scientists found the size of the lake has declined by about 30 square kilometers (12 square miles) a year.

When it Rains it Pours
Xin Lin
and Arthur Hou, scientists based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, recently published a study detailing seasonal and geographical variations in rainfall across the continental United States. By analyzing data from ground radars and rain gauges, they found that although heavy rain events (greater than 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) of rain per hour) only make up up 2.6 percent of total events, they represented 27 percent of the total volume that fell between 2002 and 2009.  Light rain events, in contrast, accounted for 65 percent of rain events and 15 percent of the total rain volume.

A Grandfather Speaks Up
James Hansen is sometimes called the grandfather of climate change science, but he also happens to be the grandfather of a pair of youngsters named Sophie and Conner. In the TED talk below, he explains how their birth helped spur him—a self-described “reticent midwestern scientist”—to speak out about the science he’d been studying for decades.


6 Responses to “News Roundup: Whipsaw Weather, a Shrinking Lake, and a Grandfather Speaks Up”

  1. Roald B. Larsen says:

    Very important, very serious.

    • Roald B. Larsen says:

      I was talking about the presentation of James Hansen. It is time for the world to wake up!

  2. Cynthia Carlson says:

    Profound. Another excellent Ted Talks is E.O. Wilson on saving life on Earth. We and the Earth are in trouble and I am doing everything I can to reduce my impact and educate people. It is such a beautiful planet and so deserving of protection.

  3. John "Caveman" Gray AKA Ling Yai (big Monkey) says:

    Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s, I started noticing Global Warming about 1955. It wasn’t called Global Warming then, but the changes were so pronounced (and Global Popuation exploding) that in 1960 I decided to never have children – I didn’t want to contribute to over-population, and I didn’t want my kids to live through Global Warming. I still live up to my pledge.

    This video is 17+ minutes, but if you care about your family, your Mother Earth, it a well spent 17 minutes. Hansen’s facts are undeniable.

    DO NOT have any more than TWO kids. I don’t care what the Churches say, they are lving in the Dark Ages. And, it just isn’t fair to them, you, your children and grandchildren or Mother Earth.

    10 children who have 10 children who have 10 children is 1,000 Great-Grandchildren.

    5 X 5 X 5 is 125 – and that can happen in your lifetime.

    Are you listening Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum?

  4. Martin Anwalt says:

    I got to this post via my research for a project on the Aral Sea, searching for additional cases like the Lake Poyang. Nice article, awesome facts.

    I’m looking forward to my 15min presentation in the university, I will record and upload it to youtube. Since it will be in german, I’ll subtitle it, so that if you care, you’ll be able to check it out!

    Greetings from Germany!

  5. Johna16 says:

    I really like and appreciate your blog post.Thanks Again.