Art and Science – Part 2

The integration of art with science creates a strong visualization for the people across the globe. It is refreshing to me to see these two disciplines interact to create symbols of current events.

One of my previous posts Art and Science dealt with the glaciogenic art of artist Jill Pelto. In this post, I will discuss the work of artist Zaria Forman. The art she does here is a little more drastic in portraying aspects of climate change.

Artist Zaria Forman uses pastel colors and her fingers to create these masterpieces. They are often big in scale, and have a sort of eerie note to them. In the short description within the published work, titled Stunning “Photorealistic Pastel Drawings Bring Awareness To Climate Crisis, it is said that Forman is an “environmentally conscious artist.” Like Jill Pelto, they both work to combine these two disciplines.

I think part of what makes Forman’s art so stunning is the fact that it is so incredibly realistic. The way she creates highlights and undertones makes the crisis of climate change very much more prominent. I personally love this artwork and believe that the communication of science through art continues to be an effective way of combining two different areas of logic.

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Glaciers at Risk

The extent of glaciers currently on Earth’s surface can be readily measured by remote sensing. This means observing and mapping them through satellite imagery. Inventories can be applied, giving scientists quantitative values for the glacial quantities around the world.

A great deal of glacial cover is located in Greenland. With the increasing threat of climate change and warming atmospheric temperatures, the surface area of these glaciers is declining. There is no constant state of decline at this point, but the risk of a future with rapidly decreasing glaciers is amongst us.

Published through NASA, this article titled New maps chart Greenland glaciers’ melting risk highlights the risks associated with increasing global temperatures and glacier retreat. There is also risk of sea level rise with the continental glaciers due to the fact that they are not already displaced in the ocean.

Within the article, there is talk of why this is important. It highlights how glaciers are not only warmed by global temperature rise, but by insolation and warming water.

Deniers of Climate Change

Being an Environmental Science and Policy major, I often get questions like; “So do you think climate change is actually real?” or “Are they brainwashing you in your classes up in the mountains?” (These are actual inquiries I received from a crazy relative). Although they are irritating, I can’t help but think where these sort of climate change deniers are gathering their information.

There is a bit of humor in these conversations because I cannot wrap my head around how my elders can arrive at these conclusions. Even when I attempt to explain certain natural processes studied over hundreds of years, there is always an excuse to defend their standpoint.

NASA published an article today April 19th that shed light onto the fact that there are still people out there who actively deny that climate change is happening. (Here’s the link so you can see for yourself). It is just baffling to know that these people truly do not take into consideration the extremely credible scientific research.

Even though there is a bit of humor when reading about climate change deniers, there is some concern that arises. How, in the 21st Century, can the denial of climate change be so prevalent?

The featured picture is a map of the globe demonstrating which countries are aware and concerned about climate change. This article was published on April 18th, so data used is recent and credible. It comes fro Pew Research Center – an organization based out of Washington D.C. that offers quantitative relays of unbiased data for public use. Countries that are highlighted with a more green hue believe climate change is a major concern, while the more yellow countries (like the U.S.) do not take climate change as seriously.

I now ask the question; what do you think about climate change?

How strong will La Niña be this year?

We have talked about El Niño and La Niña before. Their intensities, what causes them, and how they effect our globe. What we have not discussed is the strength of the forecasted La Niña.

The current El Niño has been fading beginning in the winter of 2015. As 2016 progresses, it is showing further signs of weakening. Being said, conditions are as follows; El Niño weakens, normal Trade Wind and upwelling conditions ensue, and La Niña characteristics begin to show. Depending on conditions at the time, each sequence varies with time. For example, the current El Niño has been viewed over a long time period, versus some that are only months at a time.

Climate.gov is a website run through NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that publishes information about past, present, and future climate. Published in January, this article asks the question, “Will La Niña follow El Niño? What the past tells us.” It continues to talk about, through recorded SST (Sea Surface Temperature) history, how after every El Niño came a La Niña. Although the strengths were not necessarily a telling of the next climactic episode, there was enough info to show that a La Niña is evident.

So, can we predict the strength of the next La Niña? The answer is no, probably not. But, we can infer that a La Niña is imminent sooner rather than later.

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Do Renewables Make a Difference?

Renewable energy is defined as “energy from a source that is not depleted when used.” Solar power, hydropower, and wind power are just three of the many renewable energy sources available to us.

There is a great deal of skepticism concerning how valuable renewable energy is. Being an Environmental Science & Policy major, I am frequently asked questions like; “Why does this matter?” or “How much of a difference can this one action make?”

With people becoming more aware of global climate change, countries are working towards become more renewable and sustainable. This means switching to more Earth-friendly means of energy and development. The Guardian recently published an article titled Surge in renewable energy stalls world greenhouse gas emissions.

It goes on to describe how China and the United States are actively working on decreasing the demand for coal, oil, and other non-renewable energy sources. Within the article, it is also stated that around 90% of new electricity generated in 2015 was due to renewable resources.

Now for the question; why does this matter? Well, without the surge of renewables, there could have been up to 2 more tons of greenhouse gases polluting our atmosphere. This would raise global temperature even more, leading to an increase in climate change effects.

Image credits: from The Guardian article (hyperlinked above)

Carbon Sinks

A “carbon sink” is defined as a part of the Earth, such as a forest or ocean, that absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The main natural carbon sink in the world would be the ocean. They can also be referred to as a carbon reservoir.

These carbon sinks cycle carbon between the atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere. Although not as prevalent as the ocean, mangrove forests can store carbon in large amounts compared to other ecosystems.

Also named “Tiny But Mighty,” these mangroves store carbon within the soil where they are rooted into the ground. This article from Climate Central demonstrates the means of how this element is stored. It assesses mangroves along the West Coast and in Mexico.

Looking into the relevance of this issue, the amount of carbon emissions since the Industrial Revolution has increased drastically. This means that since then, carbon has been absorbed by the Earth’s mangrove forests.

So, the next time you start up your car, just think of where those CO2 emissions are going.

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Why does this matter?

It is one thing to convey quantitative results to people so they may better understand climate change. I am not against this, seeing as the numerical representation of data is strong and credible evidence that the world is changing, but it is equally as important to demonstrate why all this matters.

There are natural climate forcing techniques our Earth follows. They can be divided into two types; external and internal. External processes include aspects like the Milankovitch Cycles that relate to incoming solar radiation. Internal processes include any changes that occur within the Earth system, such as volcanics.

Throughout the history of Earth’s existence, it has been fluctuating between periods of glacial versus interglacial time lengths. Glacial refers to times when the Earth contained active and growing glaciers. During interglacial times, the Earth would warm and glaciers would retreat. The last glacial max ended about 15,000 years ago, meaning that we are currently in an interglacial period.

Being said, this does not mean that the anthropogenic warming effects we have on our Earth do not matter. We are altering the natural warming processes the Earth has been constantly following for ~4.5 billion years.

So, the next time you see climate data portrayed in charts, graphs, or statistics, think to yourself; Why does this matter?

Volcanic Carbon Dioxide

As we all know, a great deal of the carbon dioxide in out atmosphere is due to anthropogenic sources. There are natural processes and cycles, however, that release CO2 from the lithosphere (Earth’s crust) back into the atmosphere.

Natural CO2 release mechanisms include decomposition, respiration, and outgassing from volcanoes. This outgassing includes activity like eruptions (explosive and quiescent), geothermal vent release, and the nature of chemosynthetic environments.

The emission of CO2 through volcanic sources is essential to the carbon cycle. Although the total amount of carbon dioxide released from volcanoes is minor, it still makes a difference.

During an explosive volcanic eruption, gasses and matter are expelled. This matter consists of magma, ash, and dust which is at a temperature of about 800 degrees Celsius. Despite the fact that heat is released from this matter, it also acts to block the suns UV rays. Both of these processes alter the temperature of the Earth.

The quiescent gasses that are constantly emitted are composed of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and water vapor. These all aid in the increase of average global temp.

Here’s a little more info having to do with anthropogenic vs.volcanic emissions of carbon dioxide. Take a peek and look at the quantitative measures and observations relating to this matter.

Specialists Species Beginning to Suffer

Have you ever thought about how climate change can effect the organisms that also inhabit our Earth?I believe many people view our world as anthropocentric, or only revolving around us humans. It is crucial to take a step back and realize that there are millions and millions of other creatures we live with.

There are certain species who are more resilient to sea level rise, increasing temperatures, and more extreme weather. These species are referred to as generalists. On the other hand, species who are more sensitive to these changes are called specialists.

Two examples of these specialist species are the Ochre Star (Pisaster Ochraceus) and the American Lobster (Homarus Americanus). The effect of warming seas has had drastic and devastating effects on these two species.

Although the Ochre Star comes from the northwest Pacific Ocean and the American lobster comes from the northeast coast of the United States, the epidemics effecting them are of major concern. This information was found from this article put out from The Independent, a news site based out of the UK.

On the Pacific Coast, the Ochre Star is suffering from a disease which degrades its limbs and causes them to fall off. This disease is thought to be a virus that is more active during times of warmer temperatures.

As for the American Lobster, the term used in the article is “epizootic shell disease.” This is understood to be a disease that is also characterized by the warmer waters present in the North Atlantic.

If these specialist species continue to suffer, it is only a matter of time before the population of generalists species begin to suffer.

Coastal Flooding

Anthropogenic sources for climate change are frequently publicized through the media; they advocate ways to mitigate the effects of our warming planet. More often than not, factors like recycling, buying local, and being more sustainable overall are the most advertised ways to do so.

A great deal of the effects of climate change do not come about so often, however. Aspects like extreme temperatures, drought, sea level rise, and more intense weather occurrences are only thrown in our faces when they happen. There are no warnings that state if we continue this pattern of destroying our planet, these occurrences will keep happening.

One effect of climate change that I believe is vastly underrepresented is coastal flooding. The evidence for coastal flooding is here, and it is alarming. There are certain areas along the United States coastline that have already seen increases in their sea level. Charleston, SC and Annapolis, MD are just two of many.

The human effects on coastal sea level rise are astonishing. Through my many classes pertaining to climatology and climate change, I can say that this quantitative data is very intimidating. Located on this article, The Human Fingerprints on Coastal Floods, an interactive analysis is shown.

I really like the way this data is portrayed. It demonstrates a clear and insightful title that grabs the readers attention. As for the data, it is easy to follow and make inferences from.

The featured image shown for this blog post is a snap of the coastal flooding which occurred in Charleston, SC in October 2015. Having family living in Charleston, I have been to the place where this photo was taken. Here’s the rest of the page that shows other pictures of just how bad it got in Charleston last October.

It is so frightening to me that more than half of this coastal flooding is due to us humans. We have become so reliable on our fossil fuels and unsustainable habits that the natural world around us is changing. Are these effects reversible, or have we damaged our Earth in a way that it can never go back?