Thursday, March 31, 2016

Science Grapples with Climate Conundrums

This Is a Picture of Polluted Sky in Madrid (SPAIN) (Image Credit: Sergio Cambelo) Click to Enlarge.
The evidence of a series of new studies shows that climate change is keeping the gurus guessing.

Even when the grasslands become hotter and drier, the grass may still be green.  And when summer temperatures rise and yields fall, it isn’t just because heat takes a toll of the crops, it is also because the farmers have decided to plant less, and plant less often.

As economies slump, demand drops and oil prices plummet, then carbon dioxide emissions, paradoxically, start to soar again.

And, against all intuition, you shouldn’t recharge an electric car at night when prices are low, because that could increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Each study is a reminder that climate change is not a simple matter of atmospheric physics.  The wild card, every time, is how people, plants and animals react to change.

Climate simulations
Koen Hufkens, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, and colleagues decided to take a look at how the North American grasslands – the high plains, the prairies, the open range – would respond to climate change.

The predictions have been consistent: such places that are already dry will, on the whole, get drier.

But a report in Nature Climate Change by the Harvard team says that their climate simulations of locations from Canada to New Mexico, from California to Illinois, tell another story.

Warming may not mean overall lower productivity.  In a warming world, winters will be milder and the growing season will begin earlier.  So, overall, the grass stays green.

“You have an earlier spring flush of vegetation, followed by a summer depression where the vegetation withers, and then, at the end of the season, you see the vegetation rebound again,” Dr Hufkens says.

Read more at Science Grapples with Climate Conundrums

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