The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius.
Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.)
Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees.
We’re not getting any free lunch from the world’s economies, either. With only a single year’s lull in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, we’ve continued to pour record amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, year after year. In late May, the International Energy Agency published its latest figures – CO2 emissions last year rose to 31.6 gigatons, up 3.2 percent from the year before.
America had a warm winter and converted more coal-fired power plants to natural gas, so its emissions fell slightly
China kept booming, so its carbon output (which recently surpassed the U.S.) rose 9.3 percent
Japanese shut down their fleet of nukes post-Fukushima, so their emissions edged up 2.4 percent.
A pair of male fur seals rescued and nursed back to health by SeaWorld San Diego’s animal care team was returned to the ocean. Both animals were rescued in May emaciated, malnourished and dehydrated. The first of these mammals, a Guadalupe fur seal, was rescued off Imperial Beach weighing almost 15.5 pounds May 13, 2012. The other, a hybrid (mixed breed species), was rescued May 29 with a swollen rear flipper and weighing 16.5 pounds. SeaWorld veterinarians were able to treat the bulging flipper with antibiotics.
The estimated 1- and 2-year-old juveniles returned to the sea weighing 42 and 23 pounds respectively. SeaWorld animal care specialists and veterinarians treated the animals with hydration fluids and a nutrient-rich diet of capelin, sardines and herring. The seals are now healthy and able to forage for food on their own.
Research scientists from Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute outfitted each seal with a satellite transmitter. Scientists hope to track the animals’ movements at sea to learn more about where the species travels in the ocean along with perhaps why. The transmitters will likely dislodge from the fur seals when they molt in about two months. An adult male fur seal can grow to 6 feet and weigh up to 350 pounds, while females reach 4.5 feet and weigh up to 100 pounds.
This month, on a barren Wyoming landscape dotted with gopher holes and hay bales, the federal government is assembling a supercomputer 10 years in the making, one of the fastest computers ever built and the largest ever devoted to the study of atmospheric science.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research’s supercomputer has been dubbed Yellowstone, after the nearby national park, but it could have been named Nerdvana. The machine will have 100 racks of servers and 72,000 core processors, so many parts that they must be delivered in the back of a 747. Yellowstone will be capable of performing 1.5 quadrillion calculations — a quadrillion is a 1 followed by 15 zeros — every second.
The sheer speed of Yellowstone is designed to burst through the limits of chaos theory — the difference, allegorically, between predicting the odds of blackjack after playing five hands versus playing a million. The machine is expected to give scientists a clearer image of the state of the planet, and its future, revolutionizing the study of climate change, extreme weather events, wildfires, air pollution and more.
Scientists on a research voyage in Bass Straight (south of Australia) got an exhilarating surprise when they chanced upon what might be the world’s most mysterious and elusive whale: the Shepherd’s beaked whale. It is believed this is the first time the species has ever been captured on video (shown below).
Since the Shepherd’s beaked whale was first described in 1937, there have been only 3 confirmed sightings of the animal besides this one. Due to its extreme rarity, almost nothing is known about the species. What little is known has mostly been derived from strandings or carcasses that have washed ashore. But just over 40 such strandings have ever been recorded.
Adults of the species can reach lengths of about 20-23 feet and typically weigh about 2.32 to 3.48 tons. They have a dark brown color on their dorsal side but are cream-colored ventrally, and males display a pair of tusks at the tip of the lower jaw.
One of the reasons the whales are so difficult to spot is that they are typically found only in deep, offshore habitats where sighting conditions are rarely ideal (i.e., along the latitudes commonly referred to as the “Roaring 40’s” and “Furious 50’s”). Like other beaked whales within the family Ziphidae, Shepherd’s beaked whales can also dive for long periods– over an hour at a time– and to extreme depths. In fact, most beaked whales dive to such great depths that they must surface slowly to avoid decompression sickness.
All sightings and strandings of the Shepherd’s beaked whales have occurred in waters off New Zealand, Australia and Tasmania.
Using results from the High Accuracy Radical Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the European Southern Observatory, the scientists say there are likely tens of billions of planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone that may be able to sustain life.
They estimate that one hundred of those planets are in the sun’s immediate neighborhood — which in space-speak is 30 light years away.
**The fastest known technology allows us to travel 1 light year in ~100 years
The generally accepted (though perhaps shortsighted) definition of a planet that can sustain life is one that has a mass between one and 10 times that of Earth, as well as a rocky surface, and the ability to sustain liquid water — meaning the planet’s surface temperature is neither too hot that water would evaporate nor too cold that it would freeze.
Although there are no planets that meet those criteria in our own solar system, the report suggests that they are common around other stars.
In the Gold Rush town of Rescue, Brenda Salveson, a wife and mother of two, read a local news article about the meteorites. The area scattered with them, about three miles wide and 10 miles long, included Henningsen Lotus Park, where she walks her dog every morning. She noted what to look for: a rock that seemed out of place — different from anything around it. It would be dark and delicate.
On Wednesday, near the end of her stroll with Sheldon her dog, Salveson picked up a rock the size of a spool of thread that seemed to match the description.
She walked over to a group with metal detectors.
“I opened my hand and they all let out a collective gasp,” she said.
The geologists, as they turned out to be, wrapped the 17-gram stone in foil and told Salveson to get it into a bank vault.
A few minutes before, a firefighter had stopped to search at the park on his way to work and found a 2-gram meteorite in less than 20 minutes. A dealer paid him $2,000 on the spot.