Humans Slaughtered Mammoths But Can They Save Us from Climate Change? #global warming #rewilding #elephant

Feral horse

Rewilding is “large-scale conservation aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and core wilderness areas.” In North America and Europe, projects are underway to protect and reintroduce large wildlife, including predators, and reverse habitat loss.

Pleistocene rewilding seeks to restore ecosystems from ten thousand years ago – for example, by introducing elephants, lions, and cheetahs to protected areas in the American Great Plains.

Rewilding aims to save animals and ecosystems, but a project now underway in Siberia is “a radical geoengineering scheme” with a human-centric goal: to slow climate change.

During the last Ice Age, vast areas of grasslands beyond the edges of glaciers locked up huge amounts of carbon in Siberia (not something universal in the Arctic.) As today’s permafrost melts, release of all that carbon dioxide threatens to create a positive feedback that would accelerate global warming and make climate change worse for you and me – and our progeny. But returning these areas to Pleistocene grassland could slow or prevent the change by keeping “permafrost frozen by giving it a top coat of Ice Age grassland.”

All we need are the animals that created that grassland ecosystem. Horses, bison, musk ox, and reindeer have already been moved into what was once a Soviet-era gulag of gold mining, but the project needs something bigger – mammoths.

Cloning may jump into your mind, but it’s not likely. DNA degrades even when frozen and we may never find a viable mammoth cell. But mammoths are closely related to elephants, and scientists from across the globe are working to resurrect the mammoth by turning on genes that will adapt elephants to the Arctic climate by giving them heavy coats, thick layers of fat, and smaller ears, among other changes.

That seems like the easy part. If embryos are eventually created, they can’t be placed in surrogate elephant mothers – Asian elephants are endangered. So artificial wombs are needed.

A womb isn’t just a bucket of fluid.

The mammalian mother–child bond, with its precisely timed hormone releases, is beyond the reach of current biotechnology. But scientists are getting closer with mice… [There are] hopes to deliver the first woolly mammoth to Pleistocene Park within a decade.

Even if the technical problems are solved, there’s still a cultural issue. Elephants – and, no doubt, mammoths – are highly social animals.

Older mammoths would have taught the calf how to find ancestral migration paths, how to avoid sinkholes, where to find water. When a herd member died, the youngest mammoth would have watched the others stand vigil, tenderly touching the body of the departed with their trunks before covering it with branches and leaves. No one knows how to re-create this rich mammoth culture, much less how to transmit it to that cosmically bewildered first mammoth.

It’s an amazing, overwhelming undertaking. But there are people out there working on it. Perhaps we’ll see reconstructed, de-extincted mammoths in our lifetime.

Thanks to theatlantic.com for their article, with some help from wikipedia.org.

Citizen Scientists from 1400s to Today #citizenscience #tech #globalwarming #climatechange #science

I’m used to seeing climate data from satellites, ships, and

Shinto priests

Shinto priests

weather stations – from Victorian to modern scientists – documenting global warming since the Industrial Revolution. But I hadn’t expected centuries of data from these sources:

In 1442, Shinto priests in Japan began keeping records of the freeze dates of a nearby lake, while in 1693 Finnish merchants started recording breakup dates on a local river. Together they create the oldest inland water ice records in human history and mark the first inklings of climate change.”

The data show climate changes pre and post industrial revolution, documenting the sharp increase in warming’s rate.

Our findings not only bolster what scientists have been saying for decades, but they also bring to the forefront the implications of reduced ice cover.”

Today’s citizen scientists join a distinguished group of observers.

Thanks to phys.org.

True North – whatever that means #science #space #climate #northpole

Wandering magnetic North Pole

Wandering magnetic North Pole

To find the North Pole, you travel north, right?

It depends on which North Pole you’re after.

Earth turns around an axis like a giant spinning top. The places where that invisible axis intersects with the planet’s surface are the north and south rotational poles. Due to Earth’s wobble on its axis, these spots drift in roughly decade-long cycles… [and are] completely separate [from] the planet’s magnetic poles, which also reverse periodically over the course of millions of years… the geographic north and south poles [are] the long-term averages of those rotational positions.

Now, as global warming melts ice and pumping drains aquifers, Earth’s distribution of mass is changing—and so are the rotational poles. Earth’s northern pole is drifting rapidly eastward.

Well, “rapidly” in geologic terms.

The change isn’t fast enough for the average person to notice – you don’t need to replace your maps and globes today – though you could write a poem about it. For science, understanding what’s happening could lead to “more accurate predictions of changes in climate in the future.”

It all reminds me of the old joke-question asking if all the people in China jumped at the same time, could they change the Earth’s spin? Instead the joke should be, if all the people in China (and everywhere else) burn fossil fuels at the same time, can they change the Earth’s spin? Now the answer is “yes” and it’s not nearly as funny.

Thanks to nationalgeographic.com

Last #Bumblebee ?- #Haiku by Kate Rauner

bumblebees and Mrs_tittlemouse

Bumblebees sometimes colonize rodent burrows.

Too hot in the south
Not enough spring flowers bloom
To move farther north

Thanks to cbc.ca for this sad news.

Colony #OnMars – First Step for Who? Or What?

 

Hallucigenia_sparsa (200x156)

Wonderful Hallucigenia of the Burgess Shale fossils.

“Eventually we’ll have to get out of this solar system because our Sun is dying. If humans want to survive as a species they’ll have to get out.” Stephen Petranek, award-winning science writer – see his TED talk on the end of the world.

Many people want a colony on Mars as insurance against human extinction on Earth – usually from nuclear war to asteroid impacts.

But from the Sun dying?

In 5 billion years or so the Sun will expand and swallow the inner planets before collapsing into a white dwarf.

But in only 2.8 billion years life on Earth will end when the last of the hardiest microbes die off in the Sun’s brutal solar output. Humanity’s progeny will be gone long before then.

“Two new modeling studies find that the gradually brightening Sun won’t vaporize our planet’s water for at least another 1 to 1.5 billion years. Earth will suffer a “runaway greenhouse” in 600 million to 700 million years when we’d probably be best off living in undersea cities.

Realistically, how long have we got? Let’s choose a nice, round 500 million years. Let’s say all goes well – we adapt to global warming, we refrain from exterminating ourselves, and we grow into an admirable species. That species will not be Homo sapiens.

Five hundred million years is a long time. Looking backwards at history, the Cambrian explosion of life was well underway 500 million years ago when various fascinating wormy creatures lived in Earth’s oceans. It took over 400 million years for primates to originate (85 million years ago) and another 65 millions years for the Hominid family to emerge (20 million years ago). Another 15 million years passed before our own genus, Homo, emerged (3 million years ago – there’s no point in being too specific on timing – just round the numbers off), and you still wouldn’t want to bring Homo habilis home.

What does this mean? Five hundred million years from now, our descendants will be as different from us and we are from Hallucigenia.

How much do you care about these strange future creatures?

I once read a science fiction story where nuclear war destroyed most of the world, and a few people survived on barren Pacific atolls where they evolved into something like walruses. How much effort would you put into preserving that species?

Go to Mars, go to Europa or Titan. Aim for the stars. But don’t worry about the Sun exploding.

“Where are we going? Life, the timeless, mysterious gift, is still evolving. What alien_wizard_fenn_03.svg.medwonders, or terrors, does evolution hold in store for us in the next ten thousand years? In a million? In six million? Perhaps the answer lies in…the Outer Limits,” The Sixth Finger episode.

Ocean to Sky #poem #Plankton #Clouds #poetry #nature

Diatoms_through_the_microscope

Diatoms through a microscope

From agitation of the waves
Aerosols float skywards,
Originating in the seas
And sending droplets higher.

Particles that form the heart
Of clouds reflecting light,
Pile high into the sky.
But why are they so bright?

From space our satellites discover
Clouds, composed in summer
Of tiny droplets from the sea,
That create this wonder.

A happy side effect
Of photons striking molecules,
Sugars built with sunlight
To be each cell’s working fuel.

Tiny creatures manufacture
Amides and triphosphate,
And phytoplankton in the seas
Release a propionate.

Plankton bloom by trillions,
A bubbly scum upon the waves,
That winds can loft with ease
So cooling clouds they gave.

As acid rises in the seas
From airborne C O 2,
The plankton’s bloom will surely fade
‘Neath hotter skies
Than we’re used to.

by Kate Rauner

As explained by csmonitor.com “The clouds over the Southern Ocean reflect significantly more sunlight in the summertime than they would without these huge plankton blooms.” Clouds reflect some of the sun’s heat, affecting climate. Microscopic plankton also “supply half of the planet’s oxygen.” The study is covered in many outlets. You can read more on plankton and photosynthesis, too.

#No New #IceAge – Sheesh

climate change escalator surface

Some people see a series of “hiatuses” in the data, but the temperature keeps going up

A “team of researchers had analyzed the sun’s 11-year cycles from a purely astronomical perspective and found that the solar cycle that will come into force in the 2030s looks much like the one last seen in the mid-17th century, a time period known as the Maunder Minimum, when Europe and North America experienced particularly bitter winters…

“Outlet after outlet echoed a line from the press release that solar activity would ‘fall by 60 percent’.”

Solar activity is NOT solar output, though you’re excused if the popular media gave you that impression.

“A decrease in solar output of 1 percent would be a very big deal for the climate system. A 60 percent decrease would end all life on Earth, forever probably,” says James Renwick, Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

And NO, we’re not all gonna die.

The projected decrease in solar activity would equal a decrease in solar output of roughly 0.1 percent between 2030 and 2050. The rate of rise in overall global temperature might stall over this time, but “once the solar cycle strengthened again, we would be back to greenhouse gas-related warming again.”

If the model pans out, it will be a fine illustration of the effect of solar output on Earth’s climate, but not the end of global warming. “Over the last 35 years the sun has shown a slight cooling trend. However global temperatures have been increasing. Since the sun and climate are going in opposite directions scientists conclude the sun cannot be the cause of recent global warming.”

Thanks to newsweek.com for debunking the “new ice age” headlines and livescience for provising nuance: “The Little Ice Age may have been more significant in terms of increased variability of the climate, rather than changes in the average climate itself… solar activities can align with changes in temperatures, there are many processes that contribute to climatic variations, and human-induced climate change will likely prove too big a force for muted solar activity to influence.”

For more on global warming, my favorite site is skepticalscience.com. There’s loads of information, a handy list of all the significant arguments against and why they fail to convince, and a handy mouse-over glossary.