Scientific American collections editor Andrea Gawrylewski talks to managing editor Curtis Brainard about how warming in the Arctic affects us all. And glaciologist Elizabeth Case takes us out near Juneau to study and live on the shifting ice.
Welcome to Scientific American’s Science Talk, posted on January 31, 2019. I’m Steve Mirsky.
So it’s been pretty cold in parts of the country. And some self-styled comedians have joked that we sure could use some of that good old-fashioned global warming. Of course, they weren’t in Australia, where it was so hot a few days ago that car tires were melting onto the roads.
On December 11, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the past five years have been the warmest on record in the Arctic and that the region is warming at twice the rate as the global average. Those were just two of the worrisome trends in NOAA’s annual Arctic Report Card. Back in our April issue, Rutgers University climatologist Jennifer Francis talked about some of these issues, and explained why climate change is so deadly serious.
Her article also appeared in our recent special issue, the Top Science Stories of 2018. Collections editor Andrea Gawrylewski chatted briefly with managing editor Curtis Brainard about the piece.
You might have noticed how Brainard quickly covered how our current record cold temperatures in the lower 48 can actually be related to the warming Arctic. And yes, this morning at 9:35 Eastern time it was –15 in Chicago. And in Juneau, Alaska, it was…38 above. Juneau was outside the jet stream dip. And was pretty toasty for January 31. Here in NYC it was 6 degrees, having climbed from 2 when I first checked at about 7 A.M. So it might be easy to dismiss climate change while living through this very temporary deep freeze and forgetting that things are very different elsewhere. But also keep in mind that the forecast high by Sunday February 3rd is 46. And then 52 on Monday. And 56 on Tuesday. And you can bet that the folks laughing about how cold it is in our warming world aren’t gonna have much to say when it’s 56 degrees on February 5th.
Speaking of Juneau. Elizabeth Case is a graduate student studying glaciology at the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory, part of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. In the summer of 2018 she headed out onto the ice fields near Juneau, along with her mentor Columbia Earth scientists Jonny Kingslake, as part of the Juneau Icefield Research Program, or JIRP. She brought her trusty recorder and sent back audio. She mentions Seth Campbell, he’s at the University of Maine and is the director of JIRP. She also brings up Bradley Markle, who’s a postdoc at Caltech. And Wilson Clayton, formerly an environmental engineer and visiting faculty member at JIRP. Here’s part 1 of her story of doing science on the ice…on the ice.
More with Elizabeth Case out on the ice soon on Science Talk.
That’s it for this episode. Get your science news at our Web site, www.scientificamerican.com. Where you can read all about the polar vortex in Mark Fischetti’s archived article.
And follow us on Twitter, where you’ll get a tweet whenever a new item hits the Web site. Our Twitter name is @sciam. For Scientific American’s Science Talk, I’m Steve Mirsky, thanks for clicking on us.