Giant Jim Morrison lizard and climate change
June 5th, 2013
04:39 AM ET

Giant Jim Morrison lizard and climate change

By Ben Brumfield, CNN

To get through the long, tedious hours sitting in the fossil archives at the University of California-Berkeley, Jason Head would listen to the hypnotic sounds of The Doors.

So when he happened upon one of the biggest lizards that ever walked on land, he found it fitting to name it after the band's frontman, Jim Morrison - the original Lizard King.

But that's not what makes this find interesting. It's what the existence of the "Bearded King Morrison" tells us about the effects of climate change that's intriguing.

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Filed under: Climate • Discoveries • Global Warming • News • On Earth • Science Seat
No evidence global warming spawned twister
CNN iReporter Brenton Leete took this photo of the tornado on the ground in Moore, Oklahoma, on Monday.
May 22nd, 2013
05:44 PM ET

No evidence global warming spawned twister

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

Yes, climate change is happening. But it's hard to say that the tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma - or any given tornado, for that matter - was influenced by climate change.

Scientific research has not made a clear connection between tornadoes and climate change, said J. Marshall Shepherd, climate change expert and professor at the University of Georgia.

There is currently a much better understanding of how climate change increases the risks of droughts, heat waves and precipitation, he said. There are also indications that changing patterns may influence the intensity of hurricanes. But as far as tornadoes: There's just not a lot of information.

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Filed under: Climate • On Earth
Climate change will mean more heat deaths
May 21st, 2013
03:01 PM ET

Climate change will mean more heat deaths

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

As greenhouse gases cause average temperatures to climb worldwide, human health will suffer, scientists say.

study in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that heat deaths in Manhattan will increase over the rest of this century in connection with higher temperatures associated with global warming. In the 2020s, heat-related deaths could rise about 20% compared with the 1980s, according to the research.

"This paper helps to remind people that climate change is real, that it’s happening and we need to prepare and make ourselves as resilient as we can to climate change," said Patrick Kinney, the study's senior author and director of the Columbia Climate and Health Program at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "It’s a real problem that we face. It’s not insurmountable."

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Filed under: Climate • On Earth
May 13th, 2013
02:38 PM ET

Dramatic images show changing Earth

Whether we like it or not, just about everything changes from our bodies acquiring new wrinkles to fashion trends that differ by the week.

But what about the world itself? Just like us, Earth doesn't stay the same. Some of the changes have been beneficial, while others are quite troubling.

Now a partnership between Google, NASA and Time is revealing how our planet has radically changed over the decades.

The new TIME Timelapse website allows users to view how the Earth has altered through millions of time-lapsed satellite images.

With a few clicks, you can learn how climate change, urban expansion and population growth have modified the planet.

Click on the above video to learn about Timelapse and get a taste of what you will find on the website.

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Filed under: Climate • On Earth
CO2 levels hit new peak at key observatory
NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii saw a new peak in carbon dioxide levels.
May 11th, 2013
11:45 PM ET

CO2 levels hit new peak at key observatory

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

In some ways, it's just a number, but it's a big number with enormous implications.

For the first time, scientists measured an average concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide of 400 parts per million in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observatory is located, on Thursday.

"Most experts that really study CO2 amounts estimate that we haven't seen that amount of CO2 in our atmosphere in about 3 million years," said J. Marshall Shepherd, climate change expert and professor at the University of Georgia. In other words, modern humans have never seen carbon dioxide in these proportions before.

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Science Seat: Saving the birds
The California condor is a rare and endangered species.
May 3rd, 2013
11:37 AM ET

Science Seat: Saving the birds

Editor's note: The Science Seat is a feature in which CNN Light Years sits down with movers and shakers from different areas of scientific exploration. This is the 10th installment.

By Matthew Rehbein, CNN

For more than 30 years, Susan Haig’s mission has been to ensure that endangered bird species don’t become extinct.

Haig’s professional achievements are beyond impressive:  She is a supervisory research wildlife ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, a full-time professor at Oregon State University and president of the American Ornithologists’ Union, the largest professional society of ornithologists in the world.

Her current work seeks to find the best methods to preserve specific bird populations — often, populations that are endangered — with a combination of lab-based genetic research and field-based behavioral study. She also examines the effects of climate change and other environmental stressors on water birds and the places they live.

Haig’s efforts to reintroduce the California condor in the Pacific Northwest are detailed in her upcoming book “The California Condor in the Pacific Northwest,” which she cowrote with Jesse D’Elia, one of her Ph.D. students. The book comes out next month.

CNN Light Years caught up with Haig last week to talk about how we protect endangered species — especially in the face of climate change — and even how we might one day bring some back from extinction. Here is an edited transcript of our interview.

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Filed under: Climate • On Earth • Science Seat
Study: Climate change didn't cause drought
April 12th, 2013
05:32 PM ET

Study: Climate change didn't cause drought

Extreme natural events, not man-made climate change, led to last summer's historic drought in the Great Plains, a new federal study said Friday.

Drought occurred in six Plains states between last May and August because moist Gulf of Mexico air "failed to stream northward in late spring," and summer storms were few and stingy with rainfall, said a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains," the report summary said.

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Filed under: Climate • On Earth
April 12th, 2013
03:50 PM ET

Scientists explore 'dark lightning'

By Matthew Abshire, CNN

Just when you thought being struck by lightning couldn’t get any more terrifying, there's this:

Researchers at the Florida Institute of Technology are investigating what is being dubbed “dark lightning,” using computer models. This invisible phenomenon is not some cosmic event happening millions of light years from us, but actually occurs within storm clouds in our atmosphere at altitudes low enough for a commercial airliner to pass through.

CNN’s Chad Myers points out the real danger with “dark lightning” is not from a traditional bolt of energy, but an unleashing of exponentially high amounts of X-rays and gamma rays.

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Global Warming is epic, long-term study says
A scientist looks at an ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide coring site.
March 8th, 2013
05:29 AM ET

Global Warming is epic, long-term study says

Global warming has propelled Earth's climate from one of its coldest decades since the last ice age to one of its hottest - in just one century.

A heat spike like this has never happened before, at least not in the last 11,300 years, said climatologist Shaun Marcott, who worked on a new study on global temperatures going back that far.

Things are poised to get much worse.

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Warming climate could mean bigger blizzards, less snow
Southwest Airlines employees guide a plane into the gate at Midway International Airport in Chicago on Tuesday, February 26. Back-to-back storms have hit the Great Plains, which is still digging out from last week's weather.
February 27th, 2013
03:45 PM ET

Warming climate could mean bigger blizzards, less snow

OK, go ahead and get the "Where's my global warming?" jokes out of your system. With the U.S. Midwest trudging through its second blizzard in a week, we understand.

But while it may seem contradictory at first, scientists say bigger blizzards fit the pattern they expect to see from a changing climate.

The immediate meteorological cause of the back-to-back snowstorms is a colder-than-normal mass of air that's been hovering over the central United States, combined with an amped-up jet stream that's been dipping south from Canada. That makes conditions ripe for major snowstorms after a warmer-than-normal January for most of the Lower 48.

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