Thursday, May 5, 2011

Recent Scientific American articles

There are a few environment related articles posted recently on the Scientific American website.

One relates to the Martian atmosphere. The study of other planetary atmospheres tells us something about our own. In the case of Mars, being smaller than the Earth, much of its atmosphere escaped some time ago, but a lot of CO2 has been discovered under its surface, enough to warm the planet should temperatures increase. It turns out there could be a regular cycle as the axis of rotation of Mars varies much more over time than our own, due to the stabilising influence of our massive moon (I'm reminded of Genesis 1:16). The change in tilt means from time to time the CO2 buried in the polar regions could melt and hence warm the planet. It is a reminder to us of the power of Greenhouse gases.

Another article examines ice cores for evidence of rapid warming in the geological past. James White has not only found that in the past a change in 100 ppm of CO2 has made the difference between flowers blooming in the Arctic and ice a mile deep over Chicago. The paleo-climate record also shows that dramatic changes have occurred in the past due to warming in a matter of decades, not centuries.

An article on Richard Branson's plan to relocate some endangered lemurs to a couple of his own private islands(!) has drawn flack from conservationists about impacts on the pre-existing species by predation, disease, etc. It opens up issues about how we go about conserving species (Madagascar's forests are rapidly disappearing) and who decides how.

Finally, an article on the Gulf oil spill shows there is still a lot of oil out there in the Gulf, and that drilling will be a part of the economy there for some time to come.

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