In this new TED talk, Gavin Schmidt, NASA climate modeller and juggler extraordinaire, talks about the climate system, how we use models, how they’re put together, and how the great swirls of earth’s atmosphere emerge from a million lines of Fortran code. It’s a great exposition, and the graphics he calls up in support are magnificent.
We know that sea level rise is an inevitable consequence of the global warming that our continued burning of fossil fuels is causing. What we don’t know is how much to expect and how soon to expect it. Journalist Daniel Grossman in his Kindle Single Deep Water: As Polar Ice Melts, Scientists Debate How High Our Oceans Will Rise explores the momentous issue by looking at the work of three scientists who study the past history of elevated sea levels to get a better understanding of what is likely ahead for humanity. Grossman writes from a close acquaintance with climate science and his ability to distil the science in readily understandable form for the general reader is outstanding.
Paul Hearty, “talented and cantankerous”, is a geologist who has argued from his studies of inter-glacial periods that if the Earth warms by two degrees the huge glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica could substantially melt in a short space of time. His field work in the Bahamas and Bermuda, which he regards as a relatively stable region geologically, has led him to the conclusion that in the warm interglacial 400,000 years ago (Stage 11) sea level rose by as much as around 19 metres. Paleoclimatologist Maureen Raymo doesn’t share that view but it was Hearty she invited in 2009 to collaborate in field work with her in Western Australia seeking evidence of sea level rise in the Pliocene. Grossman travelled with them as journalist and gives a lively account of the expedition.
A chance to watch Michael “hockey league” Mann is not to be missed, so here’s a recent TEDx talk he gave titled The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. The climate science is pretty straightforward, but his comments on the US campaign to vilify climate science and scientists are worth a few minutes of anyone’s day.
Required viewing: Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre talking at TEDGlobal 2010 about the “quadruple squeeze” we’re putting on the planet through overpopulation, climate change, ecosystem loss and the problem of surprises — tipping points in the system. Rockström was lead author on last year’s Nature paper on planetary boundaries and is an interesting and compelling presenter. Bottom line? We face a huge challenge, but there are ways we can fix the problem… [Hat-tip to Resilience Science]