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Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of science... the thrill of discovery... and the agony of failed experiments... the human drama of scientific advancement... This is the Blue Streak Science Podcast!

May 10, 2019

It’s just Tom and JD today.

Can they keep the most awesome science podcast off the rocks?

Tune in and find out! Oh, the suspense!

On This Week’s Show

  • Blue Streak Science News
  • The Climate Lounge

Humans Are Speeding Extinction at an Unprecedented Pace

On the heels of a report earlier this year that shows insect populations worldwide are crashing we have new summary report from United Nations that finds more than a million plants and animals are facing extinction as a result of human activity.

  • One in four known species are at risk of extinction.
  • Human suffering will increase as a consequence of our actions
  • Loss in biodiversity is putting our food and water resources at risk, as well as human health
  • The report was compiled by hundreds of international experts and was based on thousands of scientific studies
  • Is the most comprehensive report on the decline in biodiversity on the planet
  • Summary was released in Paris on Monday
  • Full report to be published later this year
  • Native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more over the past 100 years
  • Global warming has now become a major driver of biodiversity decline
  • Biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics

A lot of horror movies begin with the premise of people ignoring the warnings of scientists. And scientists have been sounding the alarm for decades, but decision makers and governments have ignored the warnings.

Let’s not be under any illusion that they’ll suddenly start paying attention out of the goodness of their hearts. They won’t.

Reports will keep coming, and will keep being ignored. This is going to take decisive action by the citizens of the world.

Vote. Become the change you want to see in the world. That’s how we can change this trajectory.

New York Times, Forbes


New Solar Power System Activated at Blue Streak Science HQ

As many of you know I’m a big proponent of solar energy for the home. And that’s more true today than ever.

  • 20 panels and two Tesla PowerWall batteries
  • Tesla app
  • Argument against:
    • Expensive
  • Arguments for:
    • Home security
      • Home security system always on
      • Lights on, even during grid power outages
      • The system automatically diverts power to charge batteries if a storm is approaching
    • National security
      • Worried about terrorism? If more people and business can function off the grid then that take away a target for terrorist and hackers
    • Long term money saver
    • At the moment you start using solar you reduce your carbon footprint

Solar power is something that many of us can do today. It’s not a future technology. It’s here, and it’s getting more affordable by the day.


The Climate Lounge

Tree rings and Drought and Climate Change – Oh My!

Tom Di Liberto

Today in The Climate Lounge I’m going to be talking rings around you. TREE RINGS. God, I’m funny. Sighhhh… silence (crickets)… moving on.

Tree rings are incredibly useful tools that scientists use to take a look back at what sort of conditions existed during that trees lifetime. You have to remember that our observing network of temperatures and precipitation was never initially set up to monitor climate. Back in the day a hundred years ago, no one was thinking about climate change. They instead were thinking about the weather. As a result, the observing locations tended to be focused near where people live and were not in general plentiful, or didn’t even exist before that because well technology. Tree rings help to complete that picture by relating the size of the tree rings with the things that cause that size, namely precipitation. By correlating those two thing together, tree rings can serve as a proxy for climate conditions in the past. Yay science! Corals, ice cores, mud cores are also things that serve as proxies too as paleoclimatologists continue their climate detective work on the past to help inform our future.

That’s a long set-up to say that there is new research published in Nature that shows clear evidence that human emissions of greenhouse gases had an affect on global drought conditions as early as 1900. And they did this via.. You guessed it. A arrangement of edible fruit bouquets. No Tree Rings.. I thought that was obvious.

Research done by scientists at Columbia University’s Earth institute used Tree Rings to tease out a greenhouse gas signal in global drought in the early 20th century. One of the lead authors, Dr. Kate Marvel noted on twitter that “The signal of climate change is a background note against a symphony of natural variability. In the early 20th century, it’s not loud, but we argue that we can hear it in the tree rings “

This signal was dwarfed in the middle of the 20th century by the increase in aerosols and pollution helped to drown out that note but since then, as we cleaned up some of that pollution that note is now more of a shout.

They determined this by using tree ring data to reconstruct the Palmer drought severity index (a drought indicator that is used by scientists today. Their data spanned the past millennium but they concentrated on three distinct periods which were identifiable in climate models, obs and reconstructions of the 20th century.

THe interesting thing was that climate models had said that there should be GHG gas signal in drought during the early 20th century. And for the first time, this was shown in the tree rings.

The 1900-1949 period showed the strongest signal similar to what climate models showed. They found that parts of the world from Australia to the Mediterranean were drying while other areas were getting wetter. Things got murkey from 1950-1975 even as tree rings matched the climate models. Then 1981-2017 saw human influence appear again in drought and moisture.

And this signal is likely to get stronger as we move through the next century.

While this supremely cool that human influence on our climate can be seen in trees, what’s also cool is that this was another example where climate models said there should be something but we didn’t have the observations to say whether that was right or not. And then boom, once we got the observations, there was the signal.

In science, that is rare. Something working out as you’d expect. Which is a kudos to not only these scientists but to all the other scientists who’ve worked in this field already.

Also, climate change is real, it’s happening, it’s us, there’s hope, let’s join others and do something about it.

Nat Geo


In Closing

That concludes this episode of the Blue Streak Science Podcast.

If you have any suggestions or comments email us at podcast@bluestreakscience.com

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This show is produced by the Blue Streak Science team, and edited by Pro Podcast Solutions.

Our hosts today were Tom Di Liberto and JD Goodwin.

Thank you for joining us. 

And remember…follow the science!