Life In A Bubble


There are many different reasons to be interested in the science of climate change. Maybe you are a lover of nature, like the gringa. Maybe you are a doomsday prepper, anticipating worldwide failures of critical natural resources necessary for humanity’s survival. Perhaps you are a problem solver, interested in creating solutions to help us all survive. Or you could be an author of science fiction and fantasy and the realities of climate change provide a plethora of creative resources. Whatever the reason, then you will find the possibility of life in a bio-sphere bubble interesting to ponder.

Tucson, Arizona was recently host to an environmental event sponsored by One Young World, a group of leaders in innovative climate change survival solutions, particularly Biosphere 2 (Earth is #1).  The event featured experts in science, international diplomacy, political science and commercial industry who are all interested in humanity’s need for sustainable sources for food and energy. The speakers whom event attendees were, perhaps, most interested in were probably the former astronaut and individuals who have been living in Biosphere 2.

If a person was to take a tour of Biosphere 2, you might be expecting a sterile, technical, enclosed life support environment like the International Space Station. However, you will probably be pleasantly surprised to find a faux ocean the size of an Olympic swimming pool surrounded by a bamboo forest. As you continue exploration, you will stumble across a desert recreation complete with species of ants and cockroaches.

The Biosphere idea was birthed more than two decades ago. In 1991 the dream was realized when eight individuals, four women and four men, donned their uniforms and entered the three acre terrarium smack dab in the middle of an Arizona desert where they would live confined for twenty-four months.

The habitat was constructed thanks to the generosity of a wealthy Texan who wants a place of safe retreat when the Apocalypse crashes down around our ears. He shelled out about $150 mill to recreate miniaturized versions of South America’s rainforest, the African Savannah, and a single ocean. The Biosphereans worked for two years to determine if this earthly microcosm would interconnect, survive and become a self-sustaining world producing oxygen and food.

Beneath the multiple geodesic domes of steel, glass and plastic transplanted nature began to fail the moments the doors were sealed. Precious oxygen was leaking and making its escape to the outside world. Despite the threat of suffocation, the Biosphereans soldiered on. They planted crops near the ocean. A sophisticated underground bellows system created wind. But small crops of oxygen producing plants and man-made breeze were not enough to make the habitat a survivable, much less pleasant, environment. For the sake of science the Biosphereans persevered through two years of oxygen deprivation yet finally called it quits when survival was only possible by pumping in outside-sourced oxygen.

But was this experiment really a failure? Of course not. It was a very valuable learning experience. Think of all the research that was accomplished on learning how vegetation, geography, water and air movement, and fresh water sources can all be successfully recreated and the knowledge of certain mistakes not to repeat in the process.

The Biosphere 2 is not a total physical loss either. The University of Arizona will continue studies on how to succeed in a biosphere lifestyle. Part of the property will be open to the public and re-christened “Land Evolution Observatory”. The university will launch a project that, over the span of a decade, will attempt to perfect the methods the Biosphereans began. The gringa considers these self-sacrificing and brave Biosphereans to be the pioneers of the Millennia.

The Biosphere story also has a romantic twist. The gringa, madly in love with her caveman, loves a good romance and is happy to learn that two of the individuals fell in love during their confinement together and married as soon as they had regained their freedom to the outside world. The couple, speaking to the Tucson audience, explained how profound their sense of inter-connectedness to their environment became. Daily they tracked carbon and oxygen levels, strongly aware that their survival depended on the right balance.  They felt aware, moment by moment, of each breath they took and each CO2 exhalation they made. The reality of the co-dependence the humans, plants, animals and insects all had with one another was always at the forefront of their mind.

When former astronaut Ron Garan addressed the audience, he discussed his six month stint enclosed in the self-sustained environment of the International Space Station. It was a profound experience that increased his environmental awareness and how tiny, fragile and singular our Earth is. His individual life perspective was completely changed as he worked beside the two Russian cosmonauts he shared duties with. Upon his return to Earth, he dedicated himself to collaboration with projects that will promote the survival of humans and the planet we call home. The only planet, mind you, that we have.

He recounted one of his most poignant experiences. It was the moment he returned to Earth. He peeked out the window of the capsule, saw a landscape of rocks, flowers and grass. His immediate mental and emotional response was, “I’m home” despite the fact that this American was actually in Kazakhstan. Once you’ve been off world, any square inch at any spot on the globe is home, regardless of politics, religion, nationality or ethnicity. The gringa finds this philosophy beautiful and inspirational. And I hope that we all figure it out together, how to save our home.

Source & Image Credit:  www.newsweek.com

 

 

Fairy Rings & Tree Councils


Ever since the gringa was a little girl, she has loved fairy tales. Stories of magic and elves rate right alongside stories of spaceships and far-and-away star colonies. Of course, whenever the gringa imagined the fairyland setting of a wooded glen with magical sprites and naughty gnomes, the picture in my mind was of emerald green meadows filled with colorful flowers and dark forests with friendly woodland animals. A picturesque image to be found in places like Ireland or jolly aulde England. Never in a kazillion years would the gringa have linked fairy tales with southern Africa or western Australia. Now scientists have gone and turned my childhood fantasy world upside down.

You see, fairy rings have always been a standard feature in tales of deep magic in old forests:

  • “Meraugis de Portlesguez” by Raoul de Houdenc
  • “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare
  • “The Impossible Dowry” (Amyntas) by Thomas Randolph
  • “Nymphidia: The Court of Fairy” by Michael Drayton
  • “History of the Goths” by Olaus Magnus

Even unwritten works, like folklore, preceded great literature with tales of fairy rings:

  • Sorcerers’ rings of France
  • Witches’ rings of Germany
  • Devil’s milk churn rings of the Dutch
  • Remnants of fiery dragon tails of Tyrol
  • Dance rings of elves and fairies of England, Wales, Scandinavia and Ireland
  • Dinner tables of fairies from Scotland

The gringa loves the old tales and fantasies of midnight revelries rising up to the surface of the earth as the magical middle Earth creatures enjoy the moonlight and starlight while humans sleep. I am sorely disappointed that scientists had to go and destroy this little piece of illogical, creative, mental space in my mind by announcing they have solved the mystery of fairy rings. And they even went and renamed the phenomena, calling them “fairy circles”. I suppose scientists prefer a geometric term to a more poetic counterpart. Doggone them all.

South of Angola toward South Africa’s Northwestern Cape province is a vast, barren region of land that is mostly uninhabited. It is dotted with reddish and golden earth circles within the grassland. The fairy circles vary in size from about 7 feet in diameter to almost 50 feet in diameter. This strange geographical feature has been romanticized in literature and local myths. The bushmen of this area claim the fairy circles belong to divine gods and possess magical powers.  Some say they are the footprints of the gods themselves.

Recently, these same types of circles were discovered in Australia’s Pilbara region. Much to the gringa’s dismay, the mystery has now been solved. This year an environmental research group published their official findings of what exactly causes fairy circles. However, if the gringa so chooses, she could put her own spin on their determinations. A fairy circle would no longer be the work of fairies, elves and sprites, but of the living forest itself.

What scientists have concluded is that the fairy circles are definitely not the work of termites or ants. It is more probable that they are the work of plants organizing themselves in certain patterns as they compete for scarce water resources. The gringa sees literary and poetic potential in this theory.

Imagine, if you will, councils of shrubs, trees and flowers getting together and discussing just how much water they need to survive. Envision them arguing their case for who needs shade and who has a root system that is just robbing the entire community and being selfish. I can hear the sound of a gavel-shaped root coming down on the top of  a flat stone, a centuries-old tree declaring, “Hear, hear. It has been determined that the crocuses will relocate to the shade of the old growth elms tree line and the blackberry bushes will separate their thorny selves from the fern bed, moving eastward toward the river.”

Although such a tale lacks the mischievous fun of fairies and nymphs, it would still contain delightful magical potential. So, all is not bad news.

 

Source:  www.mic.com & Wikipedia

Image Credits: www.cnn.com & www.fairyroom.com

 

 

 

By Water & Fire


In February the gringa posted “Rub A Dub, Dub, Nelson Needs A Tub” about how climate change is raising sea levels. I mentioned how great works of art along coastlines will disappear. A couple of weeks prior to that I posted “The U.S., Migrants & Climate Change” focusing again on the effects of climate change on sea levels. I reported that experts predicted Earthlings had at least two or three decades before we actually saw any islands swallowed up by the sea. Well, guess what? It is already happening.

The Washington Post recently reported that five, count that: ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE islands of the Solomon Islands have disappeared underneath the waters of rising sea levels thanks to climate change. The remaining six are still high and dry but a bit shrunken and reduced in size. With a population of 500,000, many families have witnessed their homes washed away into the sea as the unforgiving ocean claims more and more territory.

To see for yourself what is happening on these beautiful islands and the people who live there, you can view the video posted by the Washington Post.

The effects of climate change seem to be steamrolling their way across the globe at record pace. Scientists can talk about the proverbial tipping point all they want. The gringa believes that boat sailed long ago, that horse has long since left the gate. The snowball is roaring down the mountain, growing more monstrous and picking up speed.

Take a look at the wildfire at Canada’s Ft. McMurray. This disaster is of epic proportions. The gringa believes there is probably already bigwigs in Hollywood mulling over who they will hire to write the scripts and cast for characters. This horrific disaster most certainly came about because of climate change conditions affecting wilderness areas. 602 square miles are burning. 80,000 people have lost it all and are in limbo like refugees, and over 1,600 structures are heaps of ashes.

And the gringa has absolutely no suggestions. I can’t change the world. I can only clang my gong and sound the alarm.

Sources:  www.washingtonpost.com and www.cnn.com

Image credit: http://www.edugeography.com

 

How Climate Change Affects Vacation Priorities


So, when the climate change poop hits the fan, who is going to be in for the worst ride? What parts of the world should I vacation at now because they will be uninhabitable in the future? Exactly where will be the safest place for the gringa and the caveman to diddle away their golden years?

Well, we better get busy and visit all the beach hotspots that are alive and kicking right now. With sea levels rising, the coastal cabanas of today will be reef material tomorrow. And, considering that climate change creates erratic and extreme weather patterns such as: heavy rain here, drought there, devastating tornadoes everywhere; well, there is no uniform model of what’s going to change where or when. The only concrete expectation right now is what models predict about low elevation islands and coastal beachlands. They are pretty much going to be history, some maybe within my lifetime.

Other areas scientists expect to change dramatically are regions that have a delicate ecosystem balance and are already experiencing hyper-sensitivity to environmental stressors. These areas include:

  • Arctic, specifically the tundra region
  • Boreal forest belt – This is the conifer forest that stretches across North America, particularly dense in the Pacific Northwest
  • Tropical Rainforest
  • Alpine regions
  • Steppes of Asia and the Americas
  • Prairies of Asia and the Americas
  • Deciduous forests of South America and Australia

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. The permafrost layer is melting. Glaciers are getting smaller and sea ice is disintegrating. The wildlife of the Arctic will probably be a loss to the world. They depend on a habitat that is going to grow too warm to support their needs. The indigenous people of this region will experience a loss of their culture that is strongly dependent on the wildlife and natural geography. The humans will have the adaptation advantage that the wildlife and fauna do not have. But the loss of their culture is still something to mourn over.

The boreal forests of North America are important carbon sponges for the earth. What will a degree or two warmer mean? As temperatures warm the center of the United States, the boreal forest will shift northward. Predictive models sees the United States losing its boreal forest as it relocates to Canada and Alaska. So, we won’t lose them, they will relocate. That’s good news in the aspect that at least the Earth will retain a critical carbon filter.

Researchers in tropical rainforests mark trees and track them for years, measuring them to see how they are responding to climate change. A group in the Bolivian Andes are studying a swath of diverse trees and plants that thrive in a limited temperature range. As temperatures rise, so do the trees. New, baby trees are growing uphill. Just as the North American model predicted a forest migration, the same is expected of the tropical rainforests. They will abandon the lowland jungle regions and migrate up the mountainsides, seeking cooler temperatures.

Alpine regions are going to experience the same forest creeping phenomena. As glaciers continue to recede, alpine plants will continue to move upwards looking for cooler temperatures and water. However, eventually, when all the glacier water has melted and run off or evaporated, this critical component of the annual water budget will be gone forever. Plants and trees dependent upon it will eventually be extinct. So Alpine ecosystems will not only migrate, they will migrate to a slow death.

The upside of forest migration is that the Earth is trying to compensate and save herself. The downside is that the migration process is slower than the warming process. This means there will still be catastrophic loss of tropical rainforest and alpine habitat. This will affect the wildlife dependent on these ecosystems as well as their indigenous people.

Experts predict the possibility of losing over half of the steppe habitats due to the effects of climate change. They are not modeling a migration of fauna, but a loss. Steppes are critical grazing areas. As the steppes experience habitat loss, growing smaller, overgrazing occurs on the remaining areas. The effects then are coupled: climate change related drought and overgrazing. Things look dire for the future of the steppes and the animals and shepherds and ranchers who depend on them. The steppes could become the Earth’s future Sahara’s.

Unlike a conifer boreal forest or tropical rainforest that are green year round, a deciduous forest becomes barren in the winter season as the trees lose their leaves. Deciduous forests exist in tropical and temperate climates. Climate change models predict warmer winters affecting deciduous forests. This could lead to tree loss from pests and disease. In regions where devastating drought occurs, there will be higher tree loss. When a tree dies in the forest it also becomes fuel. In regions experiencing drought related tree loss, the dry conditions and increased fuel of more dead trees makes conditions ripe for voracious wildfires. So, if the drought or the bugs don’t wipe out the deciduous forests, the wildfires probably will.

The gringa thinks the list of vacation priorities should go something like this:

  • Arctic expedition
  • Steppe pack-mule trip
  • Deciduous and Alpine forest camp outs
  • Beach parties around the world
  • Tropical rainforest excursion
  • Bigfoot safari in the boreal forests of the Pacific Northwest

I don’t think climate change is going to sound the death knell for planet Earth and mankind. The gringa does believe it will be the end of many species of animals and plants that are with us today. It is also highly likely that entire cultures will be wiped out when they lose the habitats they rely upon. And usually species loss does not mean a gaping hole is left behind. Usually, another species fills the gap or a species evolves and adapts. So, the key word to focus on is “change”. It’s climate “change” not climate “loss”. But the change is as significant as the past disappearances of entire civilizations such as the Maya or entire animal classes like the dinosaurs.

At this point, I believe the consensus among scientists is that we have passed the tipping point. There is no going back and “fixing” things. We simply have to ride the lightning and deal with it. So, if a person is able and so inclined, they need to enjoy the world as we know it today and document it for the children of the future.

 

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Credit: http://www.notenoughgood.com

 

Alien Airports of Nazca


Studying the extra-terrestrial link with ancient Egypt was so much fun the gringa has decided to continue along this same line but head over to the other side of the globe. Did extra-terrestrials have contact with the ancient Incan or pre-Incan civilizations of today’s Peru? Since the gringa’s beloved caveman is from Peru, this subject is especially close to my heart. I’ve always known the caveman’s a bit strange. Perhaps that’s because he’s not from around here. Let’s find out together.

One feature of Peru that is a favorite of ancient alien theorists to point to as supportive evidence of their belief that pre-Incan civilization was in contact with extra-terrestrials is the Nazca lines located south of Lima. For miles elaborate lines etched into the earth stretch across a flattened mountaintop region, covering an area of about sixty square miles. Ufologists describe it as an ancient airport for aircraft. Although there are straight lines that resemble an airstrip, there are also etched into the earth images of animals and geometric patterns. What the heck is all of this for? What were those crazy people doing over a thousand years ago? Who were they? What were their beliefs? What was their culture like?

Most people are familiar with the Incan Empire when the country of Peru is mentioned. However, the Nazca lines were not created by the Incas. The Nazca lines date back to around 500AD, the time period of the coastal cultures of Moche (Mochica) and Nazca. Their cultures are most notable for their warfare characteristics. Moche and Nazca art is filled with images of warriors.

The Moche civilization existed at the right time but they were in the wrong place, too far north. The Moche lived in a region with its southernmost border over 750km (over 450 miles) north of Nazca. Mochica territory stretched from the northern Piura Valley to the southern Huarmey Valley.

That leaves the actual Nazca civilization that had its heyday from 200BC until around 600AD. These folks were in the right place at the right time. Their most important cities were Cahuachi, the religious center, and Ventilla, the center for government, markets and residents. Cahuachi is ground zero for the Nazca lines.

Nazca civilization was known for more than just the famous lines. They also made beautiful pottery and textiles. Nazca was not just one kingdom under one ruler. It was actually a cooperative of chiefdoms who worked together in the interest of their individual groups of people with a Shaman as the spiritual leader. In all, the Nazca population is estimated to have been around 25,000 people.

Since Nazca is located in the coastal desert region of southern Peru, the evidence of wool in their textiles indicates that they engaged in trade with the people further inland of the Cusco region where llama, alpaca and vicuna were raised in the colder, higher altitude climate of the Andes. There is also evidence of trade with rainforest tribes by the presence of feathers from exotic bird species in headdresses discovered in ancient Nazca archaeological sites.

peru geology map

These geographical connections are important because many of the Nazca lines depict images of creatures that did not live in the coastal desert such as the monkey and hummingbird. Contact with civilizations where these animals exist explains why they are featured in Nazcan art. It is also important to note that many of the etchings overlap, some being created earlier and later etchings overlapping them. So, there was no clear, well-thought out “plan” of how all of the images should be arranged. Poor planning if the intent was a high-tech space-port as far as the gringa is concerned.

Polytheistic and pantheistic, The Oculate Being was the principal god of the Nazcas. Mr. Oculate could fly, sported large, googly eyes (the better to be “all-seeing” with), and had Sun-like and serpent-like features and characteristics.

 

oculate

The Nazca lines are geoglyphs etched into the coastal desert floor. They served many purposes, none of which had anything to do with spaceships. Many were connected to sacred ceremonial sites. Others designated the location of an underground water source, which, being a coastal desert, was a critical site. Many were sort of like the labyrinths of Europe. They were designed to be walked as a form of religious meditation or en masse in a formal religious procession. There is also speculation that they could represent a calendar due to astronomical orientation of many of the lines. The images were not created to entertain extra-terrestrials with clever geological art as they approached Nazca for a landing. The images were created to appease the Oculate Being who resided in the sky.

Shamans, rather than priests, were Nazca’s religious leaders. Ceremonies usually involved the Shaman getting high on a psychedelic drink. He would be costumed to impersonate the spirit or deity who would possess him during his psychedelic “trip”. A sampling of a few Nazcan rituals:

  • Using severed head war trophies in human and agricultural fertility rites
  • Music and feasting for harvest celebrations
  • Pilgrimages and marched festivals to bring offerings to the gods at their numerous shrines (shrines were not man-made temples but, rather, certain geographical features or landscapes the Nazcans considered sacred, such as the Pampa de San Jose or the Cerro Blanco mountain)

Religious rituals and festivals centered around agriculture, water and fertility. They built sophisticated aqueduct systems to irrigate their agricultural areas which are still used today. They worshipped nature, the sea, the sky, the earth and water.  Nazcans had shrines dedicated to each deity they worshipped.

With Cahuachi, the religious center, in close proximity to the Nazca lines, the gringa believes the lines are religious expressions. If the purpose of the lines was to be a spaceport for visiting alien dignitaries, it is more likely the lines would have then been closer to Ventilla, Nazca’s urban and government center.

Considering the geology of Peru’s coastal desert, the lines were relatively easy to create. But, as they are actually only visible when airborne were the ancient Nazca people capable of constructing something on such a large scale? Were they advanced mathematicians? How well did they perform where geometry is concerned?

A Canadian archaeologist conducted an exercise to prove that creating these large-scale elaborate geoglyphs is not that difficult. Being a coastal desert, it was easy for ancient Nazcans to get clear sight lines. So, working from a masterful drawing and supervised by a competent mathematician/engineer, teams of Nazcans could accurately recreate a small scale drawing upon the desert floor the size of a football field. To “etch” the line into the earth it was a simple matter of removing the surface materials that were darker due to oxidization and reveal the lighter desert floor underneath. And, judging from the ruins of ancient pyramid structures, Nazca had no shortage of competent mathematicians and engineers.

If you travel in Peru’s coastal desert regions and get off the touristy, beaten path, you’ll be surprised to find that lines are all over the place. Many of them are footpaths. They are not as distinct as the Nazca lines because they are not purposely created as the Nazca lines were. They simply form naturally as the local people tramp from one place to another. Often, walking across the coastal desert is the only way to get from point A to point B.

The caveman and the gringa visited Supe Puerto, a Peruvian coastal desert town. We tramped numerous footpaths as we explored. Below is a screenshot of a lighthouse we trekked to. It was a half day hike from town. The image is at maximum enlargement from Google Earth. However, if you peer closely, you can make out the faint tracing of the footpath hugging the edge of the cliff, following its line with a leg branching off toward the lighthouse. Later, in the middle of the night after our lighthouse adventure, the poor caveman woke up the gringa. He had a nightmare about us falling off the edge of that cliff.

Screenshot (1)

So, the gringa is pretty convinced the caveman is not a descendant of extra-terrestrials. He’s just a regular old Earthling like the gringa. But he is still strange in his own endearing ways.

Sources & Image Credits:

http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc156.htm

http://www.timemaps.com/history/peru-500ad

http://www.ancient.eu/Moche_Civilization/

http://www.ancient.eu/Nazca_Civilization/

http://archaeologyonline.net/artifacts/nazca-lines

http://www.peru-explorer.com/nasca/nazca_culture.htm

Google Earth

ww1.imagineitor.info

 

 

Amazing Grace and the Conveyor Belt


Is there a way to stem the tide of sea level rise due to climate change? I mean, if we can’t build a seawall around the coast of every continent and island, what other option is there other than an eventual mass human migration inland? Well, NASA thinks there very well may be a solution.

The Earth may be saving herself. Climate change researchers have been collecting data from NASA satellites to determine where all this extra liquid water from melted ice sheets and glaciers is ending up. It seems the Earth has absorbed over three trillion tons of water (that’s about the equivalent of what’s in Lake Huron) that are replenishing depleted lakes and underground aquifers. Now, this is great news but not a permanent fix. Researchers estimate this temporary band-aid will slow sea level rise by about twenty percent. Earth is buying us Earthlings some more time to get our you-know-what together and fix this mess we have created.

So, how does this “band-aid” work? The Earth’s regular water budget is provided by annual amounts of water evaporated from the oceans. This becomes precipitation that returns to the Earth through rainfall or snow. It then recycles back into the oceans as runoff or through rivers. As mankind’s use of groundwater has dramatically increased, the Earth has become quite thirsty as reservoirs are depleted. It has become a sponge, compensating for this unprecedented loss by absorbing what is melting from ice sheets and glaciers. This has served to curb rising sea levels despite the fact that glaciers and ice sheets continue to melt.

Now scientists are scrambling to recalculate future models and adjust previous projections of sea level rise as a result of the Earth’s warming oceans. So, although sea levels are still expected to rise, Earthlings have a little bit more time to solve the problems that will cause. But, once the Earth has slated her thirst, all that meltwater will then become a problem.

NASA is using a twin satellite system, GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), to measure how much water is being stored within the Earth. Since scuba divers can’t delve into these underground reservoirs, just what kind of digital dipstick is being used? The satellites use gravity to measure liquid. The gringa scratches her head and says, “Um, what? A gravity yardstick? How does that work?”

As the twin satellites orbit the Earth, they measure the distance between themselves. Their measurements are so accurate and precise, they can get as close as a strand of human hair. Amazing! But, I digress. GRACE then transmits the data to Earthling researchers who use the information to measure any gravitational change in the Earth that is the result of any change Earth’s water distribution.

By using this method, scientists have measured how much water has been stored within Earth’s continents as a result of ice sheet and glacier melt. This is the first study of its kind. And, according to NASA’s mission to use technology to safeguard the future of Earth and the lives of Earthlings, the agency has shared this knowledge with other scientific communities around the world.

And GRACE is proving her mettle in other areas of climate change data as well. The satellites are tracking circulation and current patterns within the Atlantic Ocean. The typical current pattern of the Gulf Stream carries warm, tropical water northward to Greenland. By the time it arrives at its northern destination, the water has cooled significantly. Colder water is denser so the water that originated from the tropics, and was riding at the surface. has sunk as deep as two miles within the ocean by the time it gets to Greenland. The colder, heavier, bottom water is then dragged back South.

In this way the waters of the Atlantic Ocean are consistently agitated, cooled, oxygenated and nutritionally refreshed. Oceanographers call this pattern the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). However, the gringa prefers the common name, the “Conveyor Belt” of the Atlantic.

The Atlantic’s “Conveyor Belt” effect is like an air conditioner for the world’s oceans. It is critical to modulating the temperature of the Earth. Data collected from GRACE has revealed that the “Conveyor Belt” is slowing down. Researchers are uncertain if this is directly caused by climate change or if other factors are at play.

GRACE is going to help answer these questions. One way is by measuring gravity data from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Changes in the ocean’s currents will result in pressure changes that GRACE can detect with gravitational measurements.

And GRACE is also contributing to the development of practical solutions that can be implemented right now, helping the people of Brazil. 2015 was the worst year in over three decades for drought in Brazil.

Hydrologists were able to use data collected from GRACE to calculate that in a three year period Brazil lost about fifteen trillion gallons of water each year. Water levels of aquifers and rivers were also analyzed.

Brazil is heavily dependent on the country’s rivers to provide water for their people, electricity production and for critical agriculture. The data provided by GRACE enables the Brazilian government to create models that will simulate future expected droughts. This makes it possible for the nation to plan effectively, monitor their water resources responsibly and continue to provide for the water needs of over 200 million Brazilians.

And those are just some of the facts about “Amazing GRACE”.

 

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Source:  www.nasa.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

The U.S., Migrants & Climate Change


 

It’s easy to be academic and read reports on climate change and nod your head in agreement. It’s easy to be concerned and realize that if we don’t get our crap together, world, and make some meaningful changes fast, our grandkids are going to inherit a planet and lifestyle we will not even recognize. But, truthfully, despite our academic acceptance and realization of the future, has anything actually happened close enough to home to truly motivate us to make significant change in our own personal lives?

I am not a faithful recycler. I live a minimalist consumer lifestyle but that’s probably because I’m poor. I don’t drive that much but that’s probably more to do with my work-at-home lifestyle and epilepsy. I keep the house warm in the summer and chilly in the winter mainly because I want to save money on my utility bill. So, really, despite all of my opinionated bloviating on climate change, I feel like I’m not actually walking the walk. I don’t think I’m alone in this. What would really have to happen to inspire drastic action for the average person?

What about a mass migration occurring right in your neighborhood? What if you lived in a small, rural town that had a very small conclave of immigrants from a tiny island in the Pacific ocean? What if this island is facing a very real threat of being inundated with devastating storms and floods because of climate change? What if the 50,000+ population’s primary connection to salvation lay in their friends and family living in this small, rural, U.S. town? What if they expect to be “run aground” within ten years at the current rate of rising sea levels? What if many decide to get the heck out of Dodge starting now?

Guess what? All of those “what ifs” are the real deal for Springdale, Arkansas and the Marshall Islands. And the Marshallese consul general in Arkansas is already preparing for this very real and very near possibility. We could very well be entering the era of climate refugee migrations. And it could all begin in the Pacific Ocean and Heartland of America.

The 7,000+ Marshallese community of Springdale, Arkansas is the largest community of Marshallese within the U.S. mainland. About 12,000 more live in the northwestern region of Arkansas. Honolulu is the only place on Earth, other than the Marshall Islands, with a larger Marshallese population. And, if the Marshallese are fleeing from climate change destruction on their islands, it is unlikely they will migrate to other Pacific islands (Hawaii) for refuge. So, it looks like the open arms of friends and family in Arkansas will soon receive an influx of the first climate change refugees.

The Springdale population is around 75,000. Could they handle taking on another 10 or 20 or 30 thousand over the period of ten years? What if the entire 50,000 show up? The town already has the nation’s only Marshallese newspaper written in their own language. They also have a radio station. Is that enough? What else would such a vast cultural community need to adjust to new migrants?

Over the years, the Marshallese that have immigrated and settled in Springdale have proven to be good citizens, getting educated, finding work and behaving themselves as good citizens. The history of the Marshall Islands connection with the U.S. reflects a close relationship. That was where the country tested out nukes in the 1940s and 1950s.

Perhaps the name “Bikini Atoll” sounds more familiar to most mainland Americans than Marshall Islands. That little atoll was inhabited and those poor people had to abandon their homes because of the nuclear tests. Even today that little atoll is uninhabitable because of the nuclear contamination. It is then no wonder that in the 1980s the U.S. attempted to right this wrong by creating the Compact of Free Association which allowed indefinite, visa-free immigration to the U.S. by Marshallese citizens. Many of these “Bikinians” made their way to Springdale.

The Tyson Foods plant was one of the first employers of the immigrants. It did not take long for word to get back home about job opportunities at the chicken plant. Very soon many more Marshallese were arriving in Springdale looking for work.

Despite the opportunities for work and education on the mainland, most of the Marshallese want to return to their homeland. Unfortunately, it may now disappear. Because of this history of displacement and longing for home, the Marshallese have become strong advocates regarding climate change. And the gringa is listening.

Arkansas is practically right next door! I know I live in Texas, but, still, Arkansas is my neighbor! I have an aunt and uncle that live there. My family and I have vacationed there. And it could be the first state in my country to receive the first climate change diaspora. And it could happen within my lifetime.

If the Marshallese Islands become uninhabitable within a decade, how many other island nations are facing the same stark reality and looking at the possibility of the extinction of their homeland? Where are they planning to escape to? Could it be in your own backyard? How could this affect you and your own?

These are things the gringa wants to know. And, the gringa has to really change.

Source: http://www.unfccc.int

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com

 

 

NASA & The Hub


The gringa often hears folks say things like, “NASA is really doing some amazing things, but it doesn’t seem like much of their technology is really helpful to us regular folks here on Earth.” Well, actually, there are great spin-off benefits to all that amazing space technology.

Consider the new program underway in Australia. An Australian organization, National Resources Management Spatial Hub (NRM Hub, or, more commonly, the Hub), is using satellite images of Earth provided by NASA, and other space agencies, to help them better manage rangeland. As global populations continue to grow, demand rises for meat production. Now, more than ever before, do Australia’s ranchers need every edge they can get to meet this demand by using sustainable methods.

With over eighty percent of Australia classified as rangeland, more commonly known as the “Outback”, Earth observation technology is helping ranchers make better land management decisions. This will help leave a stable environment for future generations. With so much land mass available for grazing in its natural condition, Australia is in a unique position to produce meat for the global community without the need to resort to slash and burn forests to create grazing areas. This is good news for climate change by recognizing one resource to utilize responsibly and reduce deforestation.

Earth observation data also helps Australia’s land managers develop innovative ways to manage their precious water resources. The data also provides an overall, panoramic, “big picture” perspective so that ranchers can determine which grassland areas may be overgrazed. They can then reorganize their grazing plans, moving herds to other areas and promote the health of their rangelands.

The Hub is comprised of over 20 Australian agencies, federal and state, as well as research organizations and industry related organizations. They put to good use the satellite images provided by NASA. The Aqua and Terra satellites provide new images on a 16 day cycle. As images are collected over the years, more knowledge is gained in tracking and understanding climate conditions such as drought. This gives ranchers the information they need to make critical ranching decisions.

Ranchers don’t just want to make money, they also want to maintain healthy land that can pass into the hands of their children who continue the ranching tradition. Many of Australia’s ranches have remained in families for generations. They take great pride not just in producing meat and wool, but also in being environmentally conscious.

The Hub has produced results that have impressed the agricultural community in Australia. It has grown from its original 40 properties to 120 ranches presently. At least another 100 are on a waiting list to join the program. This is the agriculture of the future, farming and ranching as a hi-tech, global community effort.

Similar techniques such as what the Hub uses in Australia are being put into practice in other areas like Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso where satellite data is used to measure potential agricultural output. In South Asia data monitors rice production, the grain upon which the world is most dependent.

After all this scribbling about meat production and such, the gringa is going to have to push herself away from the desk and throw a juicy T-bone on the grill. Ta!

Source & Photo Credit:  www.nasa.gov    www.nrmhub.com.au

 

 

 

Improving The World Has Gone Glam… GEOGlam That Is


Food security in the world is critical to the security of the world in general. When populations become vulnerable due to famine and food shortages, terrible things can happen. Things like wars, massive migrations, malnutrition related disease epidemics, etc. With climate change posing a real threat to the future of food security worldwide, what the heck is being done about this problem?

The international community has come together to go “glam”. No, there is nothing glamorous about hunger. Rather, a group of government leaders, as well as NGO leaders, have formed and call themselves the Group on Earth Observation’s Global Agricultural Monitoring, or, to avoid saying that mouthful, GEOGLAM. They plan to take full advantage of Earth images provided by NASA’s satellites, along with data provided by the space agencies of other nations, to monitor weather and how it will affect the security of crops.

Satellites are not the only hi-tech hardware being put to use. While out in the field, GEOGLAM workers collect data on smartphones and relay it via the internet to GEOGLAM partners. This makes data collection much more efficient and stream lined. No more need to do all that pesky paperwork. The gringa likes that. The gringa likes even better the name for this mobile system of data collection, “MAGIS”. The gringa looks at her smartphone, smiles, and says, “It’s MAGIS!”

Rice is first on the list of crops GEOGLAM monitors. It is the staple grain for not only the largest portion of Earth’s population, but also it’s most vulnerable populations. And it is no easy grain to cultivate. Flood or drought could cause a worldwide starvation catastrophe. Other key crops being monitored are wheat, corn (maize), cotton and sugarcane.

Orbiting satellites provide thermal images of crops that enable GEOGLAM agricultural experts to determine if crop stress is occurring. These hi-tech images can relay such details as moisture and temperature levels of the surface of the land the crop is planted in. This can help create models to protect the viability of critical crops.

Images also provide data that help scientists predict weather patterns. This enables measures to be taken to protect crops in the event of the approach of severe weather. Although it is fine to love your local weatherman who reminds you to take an umbrella with you to work, GEOGLAM’s weathermen are the weathermen that are helping to save the world. The gringa holds them high upon the meteorological pedestal.

GEOGLAM’s eyes in the skies have begun their rice monitoring projects in the nations of Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Java. In the U.S., Arkansas, and agricultural areas such as Sacramento Valley in California, are also being watched because their water resources are rapidly being depleted. Data processed by GEOGLAM is used to create growing season plans as well as help farmers in these areas manage their local resources, primarily the precious resource of water that is used to irrigate the crops.

A visit to GEOGLAM’s website puts a smile on the gringa’s face. There’s nothing the gringa likes more than solutions. The gringa’s a fixer, a problem-solver, a get ‘er done kind of gal. It’s okay to complain but then you’ve got to get off your bum and FIX IT!

GEOGLAM officially launched in Paris, 2011, with the participation of 20 Agricultural Ministers from the world community. This group is setting out to monitor regions that “… are responsible for over 80% of global crop production…”. As data is gathered regarding these areas, GEOGLAM uses proven scientific methods to analyze weather and other evidence to create consensus based models that work toward the most favorable outcome of crop production and yield.

Although many countries have their own agricultural monitoring systems, GEOGLAM aims to lead the way into the global era. This is the future. Nations no longer live as islands but, rather, as part of a world community. Data is shared. Technologies are shared. Standardized methods are being implemented. It is the recognition that one nation’s food security is the concern of every other nation. The gringa loves this philosophy.

Never before has the world needed scientists and agricultural experts like it does today. These are the fields philanthropic, young students should be encouraged to pursue. If your child wants to change the world, encourage them to be a farmer or meteorologist!

 

Sources: www.nasa.gov and  www.geoglam-crop-monitor.org

Photo credit:  www.en.wikipedia.org

 

 

Pass The Galaxy Greens, Please


Truly, the gringa enjoys a fresh salad of spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce, with some walnuts tossed in, crumbled feta on top, and any assortment of chunky raw vegetables like zucchini, red bell pepper, asparagus, and onion. As a space gringa could I get my salad fix satisfied? Well, that’s exactly what the NASA engineers and scientists based in Huntsville, Alabama’s Marshall Space Flight Center have been working on for decades.

These galactic gardeners have created a space agricultural system for the International Space Station (ISS). The astronauts on ISS have been testing this technology which will ultimately find its way to Mars where it will create the food of the future. The ISS system is called the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS). It features a water recovery system and an oxygen generation system, the two basic necessities not only for human life, but also for plant life.

In order to sustain a long duration mission such as a Mars mission, astronauts will need to be able to supplement the food supplies they transport with them. One experiment called “Lada Validating Vegetable Production Unit” (boy is that a mouthful!) involves using a small greenhouse type contraption that has automated water and light controls. Lada’s goals are: to determine if space greens are safely edible; will space microorganisms grow on the space greens and if so, how can this risk be minimized; how can space greens be safely sanitized after harvest; discover methods for optimal production.

The most recent space greens to be harvested are a Japanese lettuce variety called “Mizuna”. The shuttle Discovery made a salad delivery to Earth in April. Along with the salad delivery was a report on findings based on the cultivation of the lettuce by two different methods, the “old” method versus the “new improved” method. The funny thing is that a sensor malfunction that went undetected resulted in a higher yield of lettuce. A mistake produced more. So much for the painstaking methods of a science experiment!

What happened after the sensor went on the blink was that the “root” module (no pot of dirt!) received much more water than it was supposed to. When cultivation “on the ground” determined that it would be better to minimize water and salt accumulations on the roots, this was the plan up on ISS. They’ve discovered the “actual” growing of the plant compared to the “land based” simulation did not result in identical scenarios.

It seems by overwatering the roots nutrients moved faster throughout the plant which resulted in faster fertilization release. Considering the plants are moving water and nutrients in micro-gravity, it makes sense to the gringa that more water would then be better. Water is kind of like a “vehicle” which facilitates the transport of the nutrition.

The gringa asks, “What does all this mean? I know that this will help Martian colonists get their fiber, but how does this help the rest of mankind that gets left behind?” Well, as climate change progresses, agriculture will become more of a challenge. We simply cannot continue producing crops according to the same old tried and true methods. Climate controlled greenhouses will need to be advanced to the point of sustaining a world population on the produce and vegetables it produces. The data from these experiments is critical to develop the type of technology that will save the Earth’s population from hunger.

These agricultural experiments have been taking place cooperatively between the United States and Russia for twenty years. Together, the scientists of two nations who have had an often hostile, cold, cantankerous relationship have ignored politics to quietly work together to solve the world’s problems. The gringa really likes that, even more than the space lettuce.

Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov