By Shannon Osaka, (c) 2022, The Washington Post, Sat, September 10, 2022 at 7:01 AM·6 min read
This week, Californians got a reminder of one of the most vexing paradoxes of global warming. With temperatures well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in some regions on Tuesday night, hundreds of thousands of the state’s residents received beeping text alerts to notify them that the power grid, straining under the weight of millions of air-conditioning units, was about to collapse. Save power now, the text warned, or face rolling blackouts.
Consumers conserved, and the state’s electricity grid made it out of a record-breaking hot day relatively unscathed. Still, as temperatures rise worldwide, more people are going to need to install air conditioners. But as currently sold, AC units can actually make global warming worse: On hot days, they suck tons of electricity from the grid, and their chemical refrigerants can accelerate global warming.
As the mercury ticked upward in Portland, Ore., last month, I braced for my apartment to become unbearable.
Normally, my un-air-conditioned basement unit would be fine for the Pacific Northwest’s temperate summers. But these are not normal times.
Climate change has lengthened and intensified heat waves, pushing temperatures to unheard-of extremes. In Portland, a new all-time high was set three days in a row: First, 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Then 113 degrees. Then 116.
To my astonishment, the apartment stayed tolerable all weekend. The tile floors seemed to emanate coolness. The greenery surrounding my windows blocked direct sunlight and helped bring down the temperature of the outside air. I didn’t have a thermometer, but my guess is that the temperature inside never got above 80 degrees.
Photographs by Neil Ever Osborne; Text by Neil Ever Osborne and Mark Jacquemain
SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE | March 2021
On the bay this fall morning, there’s a wind-carved rim of ice and a gathering of floes. One male polar bear, bony after a season without seal blubber, struggles along the slushy edge, haunches soaked, nearly slipping into the sea.
We are on Gordon Point, in northern Manitoba, where Hudson Bay widens into its northwest crescent. Polar winds make it colder than at comparable latitudes, and the shallow waters of the bay freeze early. Having passed the summer months in the subarctic wild of Wapusk National Park to the south, polar bears now congregate here, waiting for the ice to come in.
Posted by Kelly Whitt in Earth | Human World | February 20, 2021
A magnetic reversal 42,000 years ago helped bring about earthly extinctions, scientists said, accompanied by changes in the sky including electrical storms and widespread auroras.
A new international study suggests that a magnetic field reversal – combined with changing solar winds – contributed to an environmental crisis and mass extinctions 42,000 years ago. It happened around the time of the demise of the Neanderthals, an extinct human species that once roamed what’s now Europe, these scientists said, and it would have come with electrical storms, widespread auroras and an influx of cosmic radiation.
An ancient, well-preserved tree that was alive the last time the Earth’s magnetic poles flipped has helped scientists pin down more precise timing of that event, which occurred about 42,000 years ago.
This new information has led them to link the flipping of the poles to key moments in the prehistoric record, like the sudden appearance of cave art and the mysterious extinction of large mammals and the Neanderthals. They argue that the weakening of the Earth’s magnetic field would have briefly transformed the world by altering its climate and allowing far more ultraviolet light to pour in.
Connie Hedegaard: Let me start with a confession: For years, I thought you were not particularly interested in climate change. I vividly recall a closed session at Davos some years back. The discussion turned to climate, instead of other sustainability issues, and you left the room.
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