Tag Archives: weather

Climate change all over the place

And speaking of climate change there is an interesting story at the BBC about how monsoons/droughts, as recorded in the concentrations of minerals in stalactites, have been linked with Chinese dynasties:

By comparing the rain record with Chinese historical records, Pingzhong Zhang of Lanzhou University in China, and colleagues, found three out of five “multi-century” dynasties – the Tang, the Yuan and the Ming – ended after several decades of weaker summer monsoons with drier conditions.

These moisture-laden winds bring rain necessary for cultivating rice. But when the monsoon is weak, the rains stall farther south and east, depriving northern and western parts of China of summer rains.

This could have led to poor rice harvests and civil unrest, the researchers speculate.

It’s an interesting theory, and reflects how important climate is in the lives of humanity, and also in the lives of lemmings, with the discovery that the lemming population of Norway is no longer as fecund as it once was:

The research team, composed of Norwegian and French scientists, believes the winters are now too humid, leading to the “wrong kind of snow“.

This results in a less stable subnivean space (the space between the ground and the snow layer above), meaning substantially fewer animals survive until spring.

Aww. But apparently it’s not all bad news vis a vis climate change. Apparently certain Alaskan glaciers have in fact grown this year for the first time in 200 years.

This will please Sarah Palin – who apparently has only recently discovered that Africa is a continent, not a country.

Congrats on the win, America!

As to the glaciers – only time will tell.

[wanxiang cave image from BBC News, lemming from kdleditsch on flickr]

Snow over Mars


The Phoenix lander aimed a laser at the clouds and found ice crystals about two miles above the surface. Mission scientists hope to see snow actually fall to the ground.  NASA says the snow is water-based. Mars is too warm to support frozen carbon dioxide. “Scientists are able to determine that the snow is water-based and not carbon-dioxide snow, since temperatures on Mars are currently too warm to support the latter,” NASA adds.–Setting-the-record-straight-Tom

There’s also geological evidence of past liquid water on the planet.

Bonus cool thing:

Peter Smith, the lead scientist for the mission from the University of Arizona, said the team is going to try something new in the last weeks of Phoenix’s life.

The lander carried a microphone, which was designed to listen to the roar of the descent engines as the craft settled onto the Martian surface. The microphone was not used then. Now, Smith said, the scientific team intends to turn on the microphone “and listen to Mars for the first time.”

[Lidar chart: NASA, JPL-Caltech, U of Arizona, Canadian Space Agency]

Where are the sunspots?

sunspotThey’re scarce this year.

When the sun is more active, several sunspots can appear on a daily basis. However, very few have been spotted in 2008.  It wasn’t until August 21 and 22 that the Solar Influences Data Analysis reported the glimpse of one dark spot….Experts say the question is not when will the sunspots reappear, but rather how fast will their numbers increase once they start to appear.

[Image and story: RedOrbit News]

The Gulf Of Mexico becomes Hurricane Alley

Gustav and Hanna are both predicted to be 'big ones'In the sixties, Roger Zelazny wrote ‘Damnation Alley’, in which Hell Tanner drives from Los Angeles to Boston in a land ravaged by near constant hurricanes and tornadoes in an attempt to deliver a life-saving plague vaccine. While we’re nowhere near that doomsday scenario, this year’s hurricane season is certainly hotting up.

Hurricane Gustav is crossing Cuba into the centre of the Gulf of Mexico today, with many of the simulations projecting it to land as a strength three hurricane somewhere in Louisiana on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, a few days further out in the Atlantic tropical storm Hanna (the eighth named storm of the year) is growing steadily and is also projected to land as a hurricane next weekend anywhere from Florida to Mexico. It may or may not enter the Gulf.

Further out than that a number of other weather systems are beginning to form in the infamous ‘hurricane alley’, creating a conveyor belt of large storms. High ocean temperatures of 28-32 degrees in the Gulf of Mexico in particular are increasing the size of intensity of these systems. When the sea temperatures are above 26 degrees, a tropical storm or hurricane above it will intensify. Below that level the cyclone begins to unravel. With Ocean temperatures high and a number of storms forming, the Southeast coast of the US and the caribbean are in for a pounding over the next few weeks. Oil experts are already beginning to predict problems for oil production, with large percentages of US oil production and refining taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. While it would be inaccurate to link a single hurricane to climate change, if tropical ocean temperatures remain high, the residents at the end of hurricane rally will have to expect more storms.

[via The Oil Drum, Gustav weather picture via Weather Underground]