Atmospheric

An increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could initiate a chain reaction between plants and microorganisms that would unsettle one of the largest carbon reservoirs we have; soil.

Citing a new model, researchers say that the carbon in soil, which contains twice the amount of carbon in all plants and Earth's atmosphere combined, could become increasingly volatile as people add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, largely because of increased plant growth. The researchers developed their computer model to show at a global scale the complex interaction between carbon, plants and soil, which includes numerous bacteria, fungi, minerals and carbon compounds that respond in complex ways to temperature, moisture and the carbon that plants contribute to soil.



Extreme weather is more common than ever. EPA, CC BY-NC

By Mark Maslin, University College London

Climate change is one of the few scientific theories that makes us examine the whole basis of modern society.

It is a challenge that has politicians arguing, sets nations against each other, queries individual lifestyle choices, and ultimately asks questions about humanity’s relationship with the rest of the planet.


A man relaxes in some decidedly un-Scottish weather outside the venue for this year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. AAP Image/ Dave Hunt

By Andrew King, University of Melbourne; David Karoly, University of Melbourne and Sophie Lewis, Australian National University

It’s clear: 2014 has been a scorcher. As well as probably being the hottest year on record globally, regional and local climate records have tumbled too.

The rate at which carbon emissions might be warm Earth's climate today are a lot like the past. 56 million years in the past.

The authors of a new paper believe the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM, can provide clues to the future of modern climate change. The good news: Earth and most species survived warming that was a lot more pronounced  -  up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit - than even the most dour predictions being made now. The bad news: It took 200,000 years to get back to what we now consider normal.


A new analysis to be presented next week at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting in San Francisco says that extreme climate and weather events such as record high temperatures, intense downpours and severe storm surges are more common in many parts of the world.

It's hard to be sure. High quality weather records only go back about 30 years and even suspect quality records only go back 100, so there is inference between modern record-keeping and the data trapped in tree rings and ice cores from ancient times.



Braving the eye of the bomb. Danny Lawson/PA

By Edward Hanna, University of Sheffield

A dramatically-named “weather bomb” exploded across the UK in the past week, bringing winds gusting up to 144 mph on outlying islands.

But despite the cool name these “bombs” are more common than you might think.

Ten years after carbon emissions happen, the warming effect is maximized. Methane is even quicker, and far more potent, though it also disappears much more rapidly.


Each year, the biosphere balances its atmospheric budget: The carbon dioxide absorbed by plants in the spring and summer as they convert solar energy into food is released back to the atmosphere in autumn and winter. Levels of the greenhouse gas fall and rise with growth and harvesting.


Iowa corn farmers have a lot of clout during the political cycle in America. Former US Vice-President Al Gore even sided with environmentalists and embraced ethanol - which all of science said was a bad idea - and later acknowledged it was just to appeal to Iowa. They help pick presidents and now it turns out that their 2.2 billion bushels of corn are helping to save the planet too.


The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies aboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured a visible picture of Tropical Storm Adjali on Nov. 19th at 9:05 UTC (1:05 A.M. Pacific) curving to the southwest on its trek through the Southern Indian Ocean.

The MODIS image showed that the storm began curving to the southwest, and despite slight weakening, thunderstorms circled around the low-level center.