Category Archives: Climate Change

What can tree rings can tell about forest fires?

At school, I’m sure every child was once fascinated by the knowledge that the rings on a tree trunk can tell it’s age. The very fact that the age of a tree can be recorded this way used to be unreal, and to actually count the rings of a cut tree and figuring out the age of a tree in front of us was an inexplicable discovery.

Trees can be dated in a variety of ways; dendrochronology (the study of tree rings) is but one of them. In recent times, this method has been criticized by many people because of the contradiction it provides. Why would you cut and kill a tree, just so you can figure out it’s age? One such mistake in 1964 had lead to the cutting of the world’s oldest tree at that time. An accident that could have been avoided, if the method of dating trees were different.

However, tree rings are very valuable for various other reasons. That is why, the study of dendrochronology still continues with an altered methodology. Scientists do not cut the entire tree to look at the trunk as a slab, but use drills to cut out a small, thin core of the tree that fully captures the information embedded in the core. Not only do they record the age, but can also serve as an important in climate studies and fire predictions. This characteristic is now being used to recontruct climate record pertaining to forest fires, and can be helpful in discerning patterns of fire in a particular region.

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Coastal ecosystems severely under threat due to climate change

The narrow zones of the world where the land meets the sea hosts some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Coastal wetlands, estuaries, backwaters, deltas, lagoons, reefs, bays all come under a broad term called coastal ecosystems. Together, they add up to 1.6 million kilometers. of coastline. Each one is unique, but has certain common factors:

  1. These ecosystems are very, very beneficial to all forms of life, including humans.
  2. These ecosystems are very, very sensitive to environmental changes.
  3. Thus, they are very, very vulnerable to external stresses.

The coastal ecosystems today are threatened by two main forces; climate change and human activities. In this post, I’m going to take a look at the major influences that climate change has/will have on these fragile and massively important parts of the world.

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Positive feedback loops: Controlling global climate

(This is the fifth post in the “feedback loops” series.)

Climate is weather, over a long period of time. Unlike weather, climate is predictable. It has a number of factors like solar insolation, rainfall, temperature and latitude/altitude that controls it in a particular place. Also, climate encompasses a large area.

Because of the spatial and temporal extent of climate, and because of the large scale environmental factors that control it, you would not expect it to change much. Global climate, in fact, does regulate itself in the short period of a few years or decades. You will be hard-pressed to find massive climate shifts in this time period in the geological record. Climate changes are usually seen in the form of cycles; the cycle have a time period of 20,000-40,000 years. It also has smaller cycles, in the range of a few centuries as well.

These cycles are generally positive feedback cycles, with a specific threshold at each end. When that threshold is breached, the environmental factors generally change in a way that allows the cycle to reverse itself. In this, I’m going to explain this phenomenon by taking the example of glacier growth and glacier melting.

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Why don’t people believe in climate change?

Over the course of the presidential elections in the US, many researchers were keen on finding out what the candidates and the public in general feel about climate change. The results? Not good.

Donald Trump has gone on record to say that he think climate change is a “hoax perpetrated by the Chinese” and wants to completely do away with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Hilary hasn’t taken any serious stand yet, but if her views on starting a World War III are anything to go by, the environment isn’t looking so good in the future.

What was even more disturbing was the feelings of the general public. Surveys conducted came up with results that were quite shocking. Almost 40% of the population in the US have mixed and/or negative feelings about climate change.

Why is this the case? Climate scientists around the world concur when it comes to climate change: it is happening. What they squabble about is the rate, when we will cross the point-of-no-return, it’s effects and suchlike. I was curious as to why the public are still making up their mind about this when the science and the world around are clearly giving a loud signal: Things are changing and changing fast.

Image results for head in the sand
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Does climate change affect species distribution?

While climate change in the next 50 years is expected to cause a multitude of changes in the physical environment of the world, that’s not all it is going to do. The more dangerous effect climate change is going to have is on the ecosystems and the composition of ecosystems. Plants and animals of an ecosystem are the soul of that ecosystem; they rely on the physical environment (their habitat). If the physical environment is going to change, will these organisms be affected? Would YOU be affected if your living room got hotter by 5 degrees, but at the same time your kitchen got windier and drier? Continue reading Does climate change affect species distribution?

Forest fires and climate change: is there a link?

While the cases of forest fires have been increasing all over the world, most of them have been due to human activities and carelessness. As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, Forest Survey of India believes that 95% of the fires caused are due to human negligence. In this post, I’m going to be looking at whether climate change is having an effect on the intensity and frequency of the caused forest fires.

We need to understand two things if we are to see if climate change will have an impact on forest fires:

(1) What kind of effects does climate change bring with it?

(2) Do these effects supplement causes of fires?

(3) What has been the trend in the last 10 years?

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The past and the future: A comparison

4.5 Degrees

If this is true, it supplements my claim that as of now, we are still in a glacial period, geologically speaking.

We are facing the huge crisis of climate change, and the rapidity of that change, but we are not yet in a situation where we can call the situation of the world as “global warming”.

Let’s hope we never see that situation in the next 200 years.