Friday, January 23, 2009

Class #2: The Effects of Global Warming

Welcome to Natural Science Survey I/1N

Spring 2009
Professor Lewis

Example of a New York Science Times Article

"Cold Rush"

Here's some extra material on the article to look at while each group is answering their questions...

Recently, a plethora of California wildfires have expanded our conception of "national security" to environmental bounds already envisioned by most first world nations. Meanwhile, in the Atlanta metro area, a year-long drought has left hundreds of thousands of people while just a 100 day supply of drinking water. And here in the Northeast, blizzards have gone the way of the bison, making the profitable ice-fishing season all but nonexistent.

All of these weather events happened after the following article was published in the fall of 2007. Some people are saying that 2007 will go down as the year that global warming emerged from its theoretical cocoon, and sprung unto the world as a cold, hard fact. Please read the following excerpt, and follow the instructions below.

"Boots on the Ice."

This was the year that drought-crazed camels rampaged through a village in Australia, a manatee swam past Chelsea Piers in New York City’s Hudson River, and the Netherlands announced that its famous Elfstedentocht ice-skating race might have to be postponed forever. Armadillos reached northeast Arkansas. Wolves ate dogs in Alaska. Fire consumed 50 million acres of Siberia. Greenland lost a hundred gigatons of ice. The Inuit got air-conditioning units. The polar bear lurched toward the endangered-species list. India’s Ghoramara Island was mostly lost to the Bay of Bengal, Papua New Guinea’s Malasiga village was mostly lost to the Solomon Sea, and Alaska’s Shishmaref village decided to evacuate before being lost to the Chukchi Sea. Canadian scientists reported that the forty-square-mile Ayles ice shelf had broken off Ellesmere Island and formed a rapidly melting island of its own. A European satellite showed a temporary crack in the ice pack leading from northern Russia all the way to the North Pole. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration announced that last winter was the warmest since it began keeping records, which was in 1880. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced that eleven of the last twelve years were the warmest in human history.

This was the year that we began to believe in global warming—not in the abstract science of the prospect, which most people could already passively accept, but in the fact that there was money in it, power to be won and lost, scraps to tussle over, profit to be wrung from crisis. We stopped wondering whether climate change was real and started grappling with the consequences.

In April the issue of global warming went before the United Nations Security Council. The discussion was led by Britain, which houses its climate-change office, the Hadley Centre, in its Ministry of Defence, and which had recently asked its chief economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, to conduct a review of global warming’s likely effects on world markets. The cost of unchecked greenhouse-gas emissions will be the equivalent of losing 5 percent or more of global GDP a year, every year, forever. We are on the brink of an upheaval on the scale of the two world wars and the Great Depression.

Tropical Africa is expected to see a 9 to 14 percent drop in crop yields, and up to 250 million more people affected by drought. Nearly 200 millions south and East Asians will be threatened by sea-level rises resulting from collapsing ice sheets, and nearly a trillion dollars of regional GDP could be lost. In South America maize production will fall by 15 percent in fifty years and the dessicating Amazon will be pushed toward collapse, its forest replaced by savanna.

-- "Cold Rush: The coming fight for the melting north." McKenzie Funk Harpers, September 2007

Additional Links

IPCC Summary
Stern Report
Global scale climate–crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming

Hurricanes, Tornadoes,
and New York City

We have already seen more tornadoes this season than in any other year in the past decade, 35 on May 8th alone. 100 people have died from tornadoes this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ("NOAA") has cataloged over 1,000 sitings of tornadoes.

We all remember the 2007 Brooklyn tornado, According to the Post, it was the first tornado hitting Brooklyn in 118 years, and the first EF-2. The Daily News called it Tornado Alley. It only touched down for less than a minute, but that was enough time to knock out public transportation.

Do these these trends have anything to do with global warming? Let's start with a recap from last class -- what is global warming?

In Class Assignment

I would like everybody to answer the question, "What is global warming?" in 2-3 sentences only, by posting an anonymous comment to this blog entry (not all the way at the bottom of this page!). To do so, please follow this procedure:
  1. Click on the 'comments' link at the bottom of this posting.
  2. Select the 'Anonymous' Identity
  3. Type your name at the top of the Comments box,
  4. Type your answer to the question (2-3 sentences only), "What is global warming?" Make sure to include the following points in your answer:
  • "Ancient vs. Current" sunlight
  • Global Warming gases
  • The flow of the Sun's energy through the Earth's atmosphere and crust
  • When finished, click on the 'Publish Comment' button.

Discovering a New World, and New Weather

“Hurakan, in lingua di questa isola vuole dire propriamente fortuna tempestuosa molto eccessiva, perche en effetto non è altro que un grandissimo vento è pioggia insieme.”

Oviedo y Valdés
"Historia General y Natural de las Indias"
lib. vi. cap. iii. 1547-9

But those that they had made, that they had created, did not think, did not speak with their Creator, their Maker. And for this reason they were killed, they were deluged. A heavy resin fell from the sky. The one called Xecotcovach came and gouged out their eyes; Camalotz came and cut off their heads; Cotzbalam came and devoured their flesh. Tucumbalam came, too, and broke and mangled their bones and their nerves, and ground and crumbled their bones.
This was to punish them because they had not thought of their mother, nor their father, the Heart of Heaven, called Huracán. And for this reason the face of the earth was darkened and a black rain began to fall, by day and by night..

Popul Vul, Chapter 3

Hurricane History

Since 1900, the United States has faced many hurricanes, beginning with the destruction of Galveston. History reveals hurricanes have threatened New York City every century, an "American Experience" episode was dedicated to the event. Winds reached 70 mph when the hurricane hit the Long Island coast. New York City's Office of Emergency Management Hurricane page also lists hurricanes dating from 1821, the year every street south of Canal Street was flooded.The New York metropolitan transportation system is particularly vulnerable to disruption by major storms even at present, since most area rail and tunnel points of entry as well as the three major airports lie at elevations of 10 feet or less.

  1. Using the links above, and the U.S. Storm Disaster Timeline, create one of your own, using this worksheet. Scale the time axis to include the years between 1600 and 2000.
  2. Create "word balloons" to attach to the appropriate date on your timeline. Write a sentence or two describing the storm that hit the American mainland on that date.
  3. Make sure to include the "Great Hurricane" and the "Gale."

Hurricane Katrina

Today, most hurricane lessons begin with Hurricane Katrina, so here are some links to some videos about it. If you're already worried about extra credit, you can do the following. Peruse the following links for fifteen minutes, and write a paragraph listing what you found to be the most interesting/informative parts of the videos. Post your information as a comment to this blog posting.

Emergency Evacuation Simulation


What should we do when we hear a hurricane or tornado warning on the news? Unfortunately, many of us don't have an emergency plan ready if these warnings were to happen tomorrow. There's a little information about tornadoes, but there's a lot more on hurricanes, so that's where we'll focus our investigations. Your homework for this class is to make a plan, for yourself, your family (including pets). The federal government has some suggestions on how to make an emergency plan. Governor David A. Paterson has proclaimed May 25-31 as Hurricane Preparedness Week in the Empire State. But we all live in New York City, and that's where most of our planning information is. Follow these steps in developing your emergency evacuation plan:

  1. Find your home on the NYC Hurricane Evacuation Zone map. Answer the following questions.
    • Are you in Zone A, B, or C?
    • Where is your nearest evacuation center? Contact the center and find out if they have a plan in place for such an emergency?
    • Design an escape route, including subway contingencies.
  2. Develop your own evacuation plan. Make sure to include your
    • Go Bag
    • Plans for your Pets.
    • Plans for meeting your family.
  3. Contact your Evacuation Center either by phone or in writing. Ask them for any evacuation plan or other information the school may already have in place.

Extra Credit

Scientists often use graphs to demonstrate cause/effect relationships like the effects of global warming we discussed this class. Each of you will download a set of annual temperatures from the NASA web site, and graph the September data in five year increments. Follow these steps to do so.
  • Access NASA's Surface temperature data website
  • Click on the area of the world map that you would like to get temperature data from.
  • Choose one station name and post that name in your Anonymous Comment as described above. NOTE: Each student must choose their own unique station. Whoever posts a station name first gets that one. Every subsequent poster must choose a different station name that hasn't been chosen/posted.
  • Click on your station name's link. Below the resulting graph, click on the 'Download monthly data as text' link.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the data. You will graph the temperature data backward from September 2005, then September 2000, then September 1995, and so on, in five year increments, until the graph paper is filled with data points.