Atmospheric

Like breathing? Thank water. And the continents.

One of the greatest mysteries of evolution involves oxygen levels in the atmosphere. At various points throughout 4.5 billion years of geological history, carbon levels have been 10X what they are today, yet life pushed on. Today, oxygen concentration is 21% of the atmosphere. One of the biggest puzzles in geochemistry is how it went from trace amounts to just the right one.


More is often not better. In the old days, naive corporations believed that a product that was not harmful when used according to guidance could be overused and it was just a waste of money. Once DDT got banned in America because more was not better, companies got a little smarter about stressing smart application.

But in different regions and climates, the optimal amount of something like fertilizer can fluctuate. Helping farmers around the globe apply more-precise amounts of nitrogen-based fertilizer can even help combat climate change.


Understanding how clouds affect climate is been a difficult proposition, even for a difficult to understand field like climate science.

What controls the makeup of the low clouds that cool the atmosphere or the high ones that trap heat underneath? How does human activity change patterns of cloud formation?

New research in Science suggests we may be nudging cloud formation in the direction of added area and height - and there may be even be a new type. It seems that, in pre-industrial times, there was less cloud cover over areas of pristine ocean than is found there today. 


In 2007, after a marketing blitz for climate change during much of 2006 and the release of a new UN IPCC report, mentioning that methane had 23X the global warming effect of CO2 would get you shouted down and sternly reminded that CO2 lasts far longer.

That is absolutely correct. Yet recently, twice in the same week, two papers warned us that methane will cause global warming regardless of CO2.


We know solar cycles impact the weather and the climate but figuring how much, and how much of recent warming has been due to human-controllable variables, has been difficult.

A recent paper found the existence of significant resonance cycles and high correlations between solar activity and the Earth's averaged surface temperature during centuries.

It adopts the wavelet analysis technique and cross correlation method to investigate the periodicities of solar activity and the Earth's temperature as well as their correlations during the past centuries.


Either male hurricanes need to break through that glass ceiling of really dangerous storms, or we underestimate storms with female-sounding names and that puts more people in peril, or business scholars have taken causalation (correlation does not equal causation takes too long to write over and over) to a new level.

An analysis of more than six decades of death rates from U.S. hurricanes shows that severe hurricanes with a more feminine name resulted in a greater death toll, simply because a storm with a feminine name is seen as less foreboding than one with a more masculine name. As a result, people in the path of these severe storms may take fewer protective measures, leaving them more vulnerable to harm.


A new study in
Nature Climate Change challenges the assumption in climate models that climate is the primary driver of how quickly organic matter decomposes in different regions. 

A long-term analysis conducted across several sites in the eastern United States found that local factors — from levels of fungal colonization to the specific physical locations of the wood — play a far greater role than climate in wood decomposition rates and the subsequent impacts on regional carbon cycling.

Because decomposition of organic matter strongly influences the storage of carbon, or its release into the atmosphere, it is a major factor in potential changes to the climate.


Do you prefer to own a DVD, rather than wondering if Netflix will remove whatever show you wanted to watch this week? If you buy or rent, rather than streaming, you are contributing to billions of tons of carbon going into the atmosphere.


Soil from thousands of years ago that is now deeply buried has been found to be rich in carbon, adding a new dimension to figuring out the planet's carbon cycle.

The element carbon comes in many forms and cycles through the environment – land, sea and atmosphere – just as water in various forms cycles through the ground, oceans and the air. Scientists have long known about the carbon storage capacity of soils, the potential for carbon sequestration, and that carbon in soil can be released to the atmosphere through microbial decomposition.


The weather is big news. No matter what is happening, too little or too much, someone is talking about that and then linking it to long-term climate disruption. The UN IPCC says not do to that, but if people will anyway, the big question is; how much accuracy is possible?

Rainfall is important and therefore a topic of intense debate. While we historically haven't been able predict it, we can use modern weather satellites to monitor it, and so that has become a widely-practiced technique.  That is not without pitfalls. Yet how accurate are claims about past rainfall? And can satellites do better? Establishing a reliable context for rainfall observations to current and historical ground-based rainfall data has been difficult.