Metal-Eating Microbes Who Breathe Methane

Featured Image: Murky pond in Alaska with “rusty” iron-filled sediments. Image courtesy Jessica Buser. Used with permission.

Paper:  Sulfate- and iron-dependent anaerobic methane oxidation occurring side-by-side in freshwater lake sediment

Authors: Alina Mostovaya, Michael Wind-Hansen, Paul Rousteau, Laura A. Bristow, Bo Thamdrup

The table has been set and the food is all prepared. But this is no ordinary dinner party, it’s a microbe party! The guests sit down and proceed to dig into the main course; sulfur, rusty iron, and methane. Curiously, the guests are feeding each other, not themselves! This image seems pretty weird to us humans, but it’s a delight to these microbes. This collaborative method of eating occurs in pond and lake mud all around the world. In a new study, Mostovaya and colleagues describe one such feast in Danish Lake Ørn, that is not only collaborative but may mitigate climate change.

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How did giant impacts influence our atmosphere?

Featuring image: Oxygen was not always present in Earth’s atmosphere, but stated to accumulate only around 3.5 billion years ago. Pixabay, Public Domain (CC0)

Paper: Delayed and variable late Archaean atmospheric oxidation due to high collision rates on Earth

Authors: S. Marchi, N. Drabon, T. Schulz, L. Schaefer, D. Nesvorny, W. F. Bottke, C. Koeberl and T. Lyons

Take a deep breath. Your lungs fill with air and vital oxygen. Not only you, but all higher life depends on oxygen. In the Archean aeon, which lasted from 4 to 2.5 billion years before present, Earth’s atmosphere contained no oxygen. How did oxygen accumulate in the atmosphere? A team of researchers discovered that the evolution of our atmosphere was strongly influenced by impacts of large meteorites when our planet was still young.

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The Charney Report vs IPCC6: What’s changed in climate science in the last 40 years?

NASA satellite image of Earth from space, showing California wildfire smoke visible in the atmosphere.

Papers: Carbon Dioxide and Climate, a Scientific Assessment by Charney et. al (1979);
Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis by the IPCC (2021)

Right now in Glasgow, Scotland, representatives of world governments and other parties are currently gathering yet again to negotiate political solutions to climate change at COP26. This is the 26th semi-annual Conference of the Parties on climate change, but the history of our understanding of the problem — and attempts to deal with it — goes back even further than that. Speaking strictly of the science of global warming and its effects, what do we know now that the participants of the first COP did not?

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Ancient trees tell the story of modern climate change

Featured Image: Larch trees.  Image courtesy North Cascades National Park, used with permission.

Paper: Spring arctic oscillation as a trigger of summer drought in Siberian subarctic over the past 1494 years

Authors: Olga V. Churakova Sidorova, Rolf T. W. Siegwolf, Marina V. Fonti, Eugene A. Vaganov, Matthias Saurer

Seemingly straight out of a fairytale, ancient trees are able to convey details about Earth’s complex history to the scientists willing and able to listen.  Deep in the Siberian Arctic lie the secrets of past weather events, ocean currents, and droughts that occurred thousands of years ago, locked away in petrified wood and in the oldest living larch trees.  We often hear in the news how the Siberian forest is victim to extreme drought and fire—something that is new as of the recent century.  But how “new” are these events, and what exactly is perpetuating this new cycle? 

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How does smoke from wildfires in the western U.S. change the regional climate?

Feature image from Pixabay

Article: Biomass Burning Smoke and Its Influence on Clouds Over the Western U. S.

Authors: C. H. Twohy, D. W. Toohey, E. J. T. Levin, P. J. DeMott, B. Rainwater, … & E. V. Fischer

The area burned by wildfires has been increasing in the western U.S. in recent years and is expected to continue to increase due to climate change. In fact, a large wildfire is currently burning in Sequoia National Park in California, threatening to impact some of the largest and oldest living trees in the world. While wildfires directly impact people, wildlife, and the environment in many ways, a lesser-known impact, involving clouds, can influence the regional weather and climate.

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Throwing Earth Off Balance: Evidence Grows that Our Planet is Heating Up Faster than in the Past

Feature image: A satellite looks down at the surface of Earth. Image from Unsplash 

Paper: Satellite and Ocean Data Reveal Marked Increase in Earth’s Heating Rate

Authors: N. G. Loeb, G. C. Johnson, T. J. Thorsen, J. M. Lyman, F. G. Rose, and S. Kato

At the most fundamental level, what causes climate change? Simply put, climate change is a symptom of an energy imbalance with more energy coming into Earth’s atmosphere than is able to go out. This imbalance drives changes in our climate system that scientists around the world study, including warming temperatures, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and coral reef bleaching. Using two different kinds of observational data, a recent study has found evidence that the energy imbalance is increasing, which suggests climate change will only worsen.

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The growing threat of hurricane-associated flooding in southeastern Texas

Feature Image: Flooding in Port Arthur, Texas on August 31, 2017 from Hurricane Harvey. Image from Wikimedia.

Article: Assessment of Future Flood Hazards for Southeastern Texas: Synthesizing Subsidence, Sea‐Level Rise, and Storm Surge Scenarios
Authors: M. M. Miller and M. Shirzaei

Residents of southeastern Texas are not strangers to hurricane landfalls, including Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which caused 80 fatalities and damaged over 80,000 houses without flood insurance. With the population of coastal areas in the United States expected to continue to grow, understanding how hurricane-associated flooding will change in the future is essential for informing policy decisions and flood resilience strategies. Unfortunately southeastern Texas is facing a triple threat of factors that increase the risk of flooding during hurricane landfalls: land subsidence, sea level rise, and more intense hurricanes.

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Do Hurricanes Choke on Dust?

Satellite image showing plume of dust drifting from north Africa

Paper – Influence of Saharan Dust on the Large‐Scale Meteorological Environment for Development of Tropical Cyclone Over North Atlantic Ocean Basin
Authors – Yue Sun and Chuanfeng Zhao

Several times a year, strong gusts blow dust from the Sahara Desert westwards over the Atlantic Ocean. When the plume reaches the Caribbean, many residents experience respiratory irritation and allergic reactions to the dust. On particularly bad days, those with sensitivities to or certain pre-existing conditions are urged to stay indoors. The haze reduces visibility and casts a dull filter over the landscape.

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How does climate change impact extreme cold outbreaks in the United States?

Featured image from CJ on Pixabay

Article: Quantifying Human-Induced Dynamic and Thermodynamic Contributions to Severe Cold Outbreaks Like November 2019 in the Eastern United States
Authors: C. Zhou, A. Dai, J. Wang, and D. Chen

Questions about extreme cold outbreaks have been featured in the U.S. news recently, as a majority of the country experienced record-breaking cold temperatures during the week of February 8, 2021. Was this extreme cold related to climate change? Will we see more of these events in the future? As Texans faced extensive blackouts due to issues with electricity generation and transmission because of the cold, meteorologists and news reporters tried to answer these questions as best they could. But what does the latest climate science say about the link, if any, between extreme cold outbreaks and climate change?

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Will Atmospheric Rivers Shift from Helpful to Harmful due to Climate Change?

Feature Image by mirobo on Pixabay

Article: The Shifting Scales of Western U.S. Landfalling Atmospheric Rivers Under Climate Change
Authors: Rhoades, A. M., Jones, A. D., Srivastava, A., Huang, H., O’Brien, T. A., Patricola, C. M., Ullrich, P. A., Wehner, M., and Zhou, Y.

While residents of the West Coast of the United States usually don’t have to worry about hurricanes, snow storms, or tornadoes, every winter they do experience extreme weather events known as atmospheric rivers. Atmospheric rivers are plumes of highly concentrated water vapor in the atmosphere. When they move over land, they can produce very heavy rainfall that can cause flooding and even trigger landslides. However, atmospheric rivers are not all bad; in fact, some might even say they’re essential. They provide up to half of California’s rainfall every year, which is beneficial for agriculture and water supply. Like all weather events, atmospheric rivers are impacted by climate change, so how will they be different in a few decades? This question is essential for water resource managers and regular residents of the West Coast, since atmospheric rivers can both help and harm their livelihoods.

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