Atmospheric


Credit: Don Davis

By Claire Belcher, University of Exeter and Rory Hadden, University of Edinburgh

The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs set off an intense heat wave that briefly boiled the Earth’s atmosphere – but it didn’t burn off all the plants.

The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000, which continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York.

In a separate analysis of the raw data, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record. They conclude that 2014 ranks as Earth's warmest since 1880. Since then, Earth's average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet's atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades.
People love that earthy smell after it rains. It turns out there is a good science reason for it, and it's been captured using high-speed imaging.

Petrichor is the  phenomenon first characterized by Australian scientists as the smell released after a light rain. Now scientists at MIT believe they may have identified the mechanism that releases this aroma, as well as other aerosols, into the environment.

Recent results of a study finds that that sensor changes have significantly biased temperature observations from the Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) station network.
More than 700 SNOTEL sites monitor temperature and snowpack across the mountainous western U.S. SNOTEL provides critical data for water supply forecasts. Researchers often use SNOTEL data to study mountain climate trends and impacts to mountain hydrology and ecology. 

University of Montana and Montana Climate Office researcher Jared Oyler and colleagues applied statistical techniques to account for biases introduced when equipment was switched at SNOTEL sites in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s.


Hydrogen fuel cells may be the best option for powering zero-emission vehicles, Toyota will make them available in the United States in 2015, but those fuel cells require an electrocatalyst -- a platinum surface -- to increase the reaction rate, and the cost of the precious metal makes it hard for hydrogen fuel cells to compete economically with the internal combustion engine. 



Could climate change be making flying more unsafe? KamrenB Photography, CC BY

By Todd Lane, University of Melbourne

80 percent of current coal reserves, 50 percent of gas reserves and 33 percent of oil reserves should remain in the ground by 2050 to avoid the 2°C target established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and used as a benchmark by policy makers, according to a new estimate.

So much for that Peak Oil of 1992. We need to worry about Oil Glut instead.

The paper identifies the geographic location of existing reserves that should remain unused - it's no secret that is China, Russia and the United States, along with 260 billion barrels oil reserves in the Middle East. The Middle East should also leave over 60% of its gas reserves in the ground.


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.