Tag Archives: weather

Climate Change Guide

Earth is getting hotter. There’s really no doubt about it. This past January, for example, “was the planet’s most unusually warm month since we started measuring temperature in 1880.”

The misinformation out there about climate change is maddening and time consuming to go against. Thankfully there’s a great resource available to help sift through the BS.

It’s a YouTube channel called Scientists on Climate Change. You’ll find a number of videos there with interviews from actually climate scientists. These are the people who know what they’re talking about. These are not politicians or wishful thinkers. I highly recommend it if for no other reason than to see what real-life scientists are studying.

Climate Change Deniers’ Anthem

Love this. Funny or Die has a new take on climate change and the Koch brothers. Not much more to say except that if you want to learn more about climate change I highly recommend Climate Truth and Skeptical Science.

How Dust can help control Climate Change

Research by a University of Oklahoma scientist could lead to novel way to fight climate change. It has to do with dust.

Dr. Gerilyn Soreghan, courtesy University of Oklahoma

Dr. Gerilyn Soreghan, courtesy University of Oklahoma

Dr. Gerilyn Soreghan and a team of researchers from the University of California Riverside, Florida State University, University of Leeds, Hampton University, and Cornell University have been looking at some really old, iron-rich dust deposits. Like 300-million year old dust from the late Paleozoic period.

(I’ve talked with Dr. Soreghan before, click here and here to learn more about her.)

Dr. Soreghan says Earth’s atmosphere was as dusty as it has ever been 300 million years ago. She says it’s important to study those dust deposits because of the impact they had back then on Earth’s climate.

Here’s why: dust carries iron- iron is a fertilizer for plants- plants use photosynthesis-photosynthesis removes carbon from the atmosphere and replaces it with oxygen.

Dr. Soreghan says deep-time dust contained a lot of iron which means it “…should have even larger consequences for burial of carbon.” As for the modern day, there’s talk of iron fertilization as a geoengineering scheme to control the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Dr. Soreghan says her study on deep-time events shines a light on how those types of geoengineering endeavors may work in the present day but, she says, more research is needed.

You can read more on the study in this brief write-up by Dr. Soreghan or here where the Geological Society of America has published an article. The National Science Foundation and American Chemical Society funded the research.

 

 

Oklahoma Spring Rains Strengthened by Global Warming

Global warming is behind that record setting rainfall we experienced last May.

The Oklahoma Climatological Survey reported a statewide average of 14 inches of rain in May, well above the previous record set in 1941.

It’s no secret that Oklahoma gets a lot of rain in the spring but a newly published study says global warming is the reason why we saw so much of it this year. Dr. Shih-Yu (Simon) Wang, the assistant director of the Utah Climate Center, is the lead author of the study. The Guardian has a good recap.

Global warming acts like a domino effect…a rise in temperatures in one part of the world, impacts rising seawaters in another part of the world, impacts precipitation in another part of the world…and so on. Dr. Wang studied how global warming impacted El Niño.

“El Niño tends to increase late-spring precipitation in the southern Great Plains and this effect has intensified since 1980. There was a detectable effect of anthropogenic global warming in the physical processes that caused the persistent precipitation in May of 2015: Warming in the tropical Pacific acted to strengthen the teleconnection towards North America…”              

You can expect to see many more studies like this linking global warming to natural disasters. Some may continue to deny it but the Earth doesn’t care.

 

 

Using Radar to Track Bird Migration

Two University of Oklahoma students have discovered a way to use weather radar to track bird migrations. Kyle Horton is a biology student and Phillip Stepanian is studying meteorology and electrical engineering. They recently found a way learn how birds migrate using the country’s weather radar network. Below the pics is a news release from OU. I think this is a fantastic way to use an already existing system (the weather radar network) for an entirely different field than it was built.

Phillip M. Stepanian- Doctoral student in Meteorology and Electrical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma

   Phillip M. Stepanian- Doctoral student in Meteorology and Electrical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma

Kyle G. Horton- Doctoral student in Biology at the University of Oklahoma

Kyle G. Horton- Doctoral student in Biology at the University of Oklahoma

OU Students Use Nation’s Weather Radar Network to Track Bird Migration at Night

Norman, Okla.—Using the nation’s weather radar network, two University of Oklahoma doctoral students have developed a technique for forecasting something other than the weather: the orientation behavior of birds as they migrate through the atmosphere at night.  The students have discovered a way to use the latest dual-polarization radar upgrade to measure broad-scale flight orientation of nocturnal migrant birds—a promising development for biologists and bird enthusiasts.

The approach to the problem paired Phillip M. Stepanian, a meteorology and electrical engineering student, and Kyle G. Horton, a biology student, on the study that demonstrates how the upgraded national weather radar network contributed to the understanding of animal flight orientation behavior at a large spatial scale. Stepanian and Horton may be the first to develop a practical application of polarimetric radar data for tracking migrant birds during nighttime flight.

“This is an important advance because we can now measure how migrants compensate for wind speed and direction to achieve a particular migration track direction; essentially extracting a large-scale measure of bird behavior.  We are already involved in several follow-on studies that look at the behavioral variation in flight orientation at large spatial scales,” says Jeffrey F. Kelly, Oklahoma Biological Survey.

Horton, who is interested in bird strategies and orientation as they migrate from one place to another at night, will use the methodology to track migrant birds on the east coast and weather events that may disrupt flight patterns of the birds.  Stepanian is interested in the method for collecting the data using the nation’s upgraded weather radar network.  He wants to apply measurements to bird migration in ways not done before, which is a new application of the radar.

The ability to forecast migrant bird patterns will provide biologists and birders with an important tool for tracking nighttime flight of migrants.  Horton hopes to answer some big biological questions with this methodology, while Stepanian values the importance of the radar in tracking migrants and applying the data in new and innovative ways.

An article on this study has been published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering’s Geoscience and Remote Sensing online early edition.  The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded this research project.

Rising CO2 Levels Not Good for Grasslands

Rising CO2 levels are not good for grasslands, that’s the result of a four decade study in Montana. Researchers with Montana State University have been studying the same meadow near Bozeman for more than 40 years. They recently published the results of their study in Nature Communications.

The study ran from 1969 to 2012. When it began the concentration of carbon dioxide was at 327 parts per million. 42 years later it had risen by 20% to 402ppm.

So what were the results? Not surprisingly at all, not good. As reported by  The Daily Climate,Dryness over the last several decades is outpacing any potential growth stimulation from increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen deposition,” said Jack Brookshire, one of the study’s co-author. He added, “Our results demonstrate lasting consequences of recent climate change on grassland production.”

One of the big arguments for climate change deniers is that rising CO2 emissions are good for plants. Our own illustrious Senator with the snowball has made that argument several times. He most recently said it earlier this month on the Senate floor. Here’s the video courtesy of Raw Story.

So basically more CO2 makes plants greener. In a way, that’s correct. But when looking at climate change you have take into everything into account…that includes less rainfall. So more CO2 and less rain means less productivity in grasslands.

Maybe next time the Senator with the snowball will bring a clump of grass to the Senate floor to make his case.

Weather School

Oklahoma’s weather season is here so what better time to go to weather school. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman is offering just such an opportunity.

Rich Thompson is a lead forecaster at the SPC. He hosts a weekly a series on forecasting tornados. You can attend the workshops live every Tuesday evening at 7:30 at the National Weather Service office in Norman or you can watch online right here. You can also go to this YouTube channel for more archives and other presentations.

The workshops are for anyone who wants to learn more about tornados and science behind how forecasters know where one will next appear.

 

Summer of Science

How about a summer of science for your high schooler (or 8th grader)?!?! OK Higher Ed is offering a fantastic opportunity for students who will be in 8th-12th grade next year. It’s called the Summer Academies.

A total of 26 academies will be held at 17 college campuses across the state throughout the summer.  Topics include biology, engineering, math, aeronautics, meteorology…you know, all the STEM stuff. Best of all, it’s FREE!!!

Check out these quotes from former academy attendees courtesy of OKMath.

“No field of study has started a fire within me like architecture and interior design has. Your enthusiasm for my ideas and designs was new and exciting for me.”

“This is the best thing I will ever do this whole entire summer.”

“College doesn’t seem as unimaginable as before. I will definitely be going to college.”

OKMath also reports, “a greater percentage of Summer Academies students go to college immediately after high school than compared to other students.” Also, “Summer Academies students earn degrees at a higher rate than other students.”

Click here to register and see a full list of academies being offered. You can also call 1-800-858-1840 for more information.

And remember, it’s FREE!!

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This Scientist is OK- Dr. Lynn Soreghan

Dr. Lynn Soreghan is a geologist at the University of Oklahoma. She studies what’s called deep time climate, basically we’re talking about Earth’s climate from hundreds of millions of years ago. She does it by studying ancient dust that has now solidified and become rock.

In this video she talks about why she loves geology, what ancient dust particles tell you about climate of the past, and what she thinks about the state of science education in Oklahoma. You can really see at the 2:52 mark as she tries to find the words to describe her frustration with some of the meddling that goes on in science education in our state.

Ancient Dust and Fossilized Raindrops (sort of)

Dr. Lynn Soreghan is a geologist at the University of Oklahoma. She has one of the more unique specialties I’ve come across. She studies deep time climate by looking at ancient dust. It was formed hundreds of millions of years ago but has now become rock or stone.

Be sure to check out the 2:05 mark where you can see what are essentially fossilized raindrops!!! Okay, not really, but you can see the imprint made when it rained millions of years ago in Colorado. It’s supercool.

We talked via Skype.