Predicting the effects of climate change on the structure and function of ecosystems is difficult because most ecosystems are staggeringly complex, with many directly and indirectly interacting animal and plant species. A recent study by Christenson and colleagues attempts to track the effects of climate change through a forest ecosystem in the northeastern US to understand how one climatic alteration might affect the plant community through multiple pathways…
Jed Kaplan is an expert on the response of global vegetation to climate changes and the potential feedbacks between the Earth’s land surface and the climate system. More information about his research is on his website here.
Volcanic eruptions are generally considered one of the best-understood (and most dramatic) causes of sudden climate changes, with large explosive eruptions capable of causing severe short-term cooling on hemispheric and global scales. This mainly occurs when eruptions inject large volumes of sulfur dioxide into the high atmosphere, where the gas oxidizes to form an aerosol particle haze that reflects incoming solar radiation to space, cooling the…
Dan Cziczo will speak about his work as an atmospheric scientist interested in the interrelationship of particulate matter and cloud formation. His research utilizes laboratory and field studies to elucidate how small particles interact with water vapor to form droplets and ice crystals which are important players in the Earth’s climate system. Experiments include using small cloud chambers in the laboratory to mimic atmospheric conditions that lead to cloud formation and observing clouds in situ from remote mountaintop sites or through the use of research aircraft.
Subpolar ocean gyres (large systems of rotating ocean currents) in the Southern Hemisphere are found poleward of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current near the Weddell and Ross Sea. They play a key role in the global energy and water budgets. These gyres are crucial for the transport of heat around the planet, as well as the distribution of nutrients and marine species. Thus, the subpolar gyres are important in the mixing and transformation of water masses.
Venkatachalam Ramaswamy, Director, Geophysical Fluids Laboratory, Princeton University, delivers a lecture entitled, “Understanding Trends and Extremes in Climate”.
Respiration by plants and microorganisms is primarily responsible for mediating carbon exchanges between the biosphere and atmosphere. Climate warming has the potential to influence the activity of these organisms, altering the exchanges between carbon pools. Traditionally, the respiratory release of CO2 into the atmosphere is thought to be more temperature-sensitive than photosynthesis (carbon fixation), generating a positive climate-ecosystem carbon feedback with the potential to accelerate climate warming by up to 1.4 times.
Public discussions of climate change often focus on greenhouse gases and rising temperatures, but the most severe and immediate societal impacts of global warming are likely to be associated with changing hydrological conditions. Disruptions in water supply, extreme storms and record droughts may impact every aspect of rural and urban society: from agriculture and manufacturing to housing, energy and human health.