Happy Origin Day!

November 24, 2010

On November 24, 1859, Charles Darwin’s book was published, On the Origin of Species.

Title page, 1859 edition of Darwin's Origin of Species - University of Sydney/Wikimedia image

Title page, 1859 edition of Darwin's Origin of Species - image from the University of Sydney via Wikimedia image

How to celebrate?  You could read a summary of Ernst Mayr’s shorthand version of Darwin’s theory, and understand it really for the first time  (I hope not the first time, but there are a lot of people who really don’t understand what Darwin said — especially among critics of evolution):

Darwin’s theory of evolution is based on key facts and the inferences drawn from them, which biologist Ernst Mayr summarised as follows:[3]

  • Every species is fertile enough that if all offspring survived to reproduce the population would grow (fact).
  • Despite periodic fluctuations, populations remain roughly the same size (fact).
  • Resources such as food are limited and are relatively stable over time (fact).
  • A struggle for survival ensues (inference).
  • Individuals in a population vary significantly from one another (fact).
  • Much of this variation is inheritable (fact).
  • Individuals less suited to the environment are less likely to survive and less likely to reproduce; individuals more suited to the environment are more likely to survive and more likely to reproduce and leave their inheritable traits to future generations, which produces the process of natural selection (inference).
  • This slowly effected process results in populations changing to adapt to their environments, and ultimately, these variations accumulate over time to form new species (inference).
Darwin's original sketch of a "tree of life," from Darwin's journals

Charles Darwin's 1837 sketch, his first diagram of an evolutionary tree from his First Notebook on Transmutation of Species (1837) on view at the the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Interpretation of handwriting: "I think case must be that one generation should have as many living as now. To do this and to have as many species in same genus (as is) requires extinction . Thus between A + B the immense gap of relation. C + B the finest gradation. B+D rather greater distinction. Thus genera would be formed. Bearing relation" (next page begins) "to ancient types with several extinct forms." Wikimedia image


Annals of Global Warming: Lakes warming in temperate regions worldwide

November 24, 2010

While we were trying (unsuccessfully) to find the criminals who hacked the e-mails of scientists, and trying (unsuccessfully for the most part) to point out that being victims of a crime does not mean a group’s research is faulty, and watching the disastrous results of the cynical assault on American politics by e-mail thieves and modern enemies of Hypatia, the world continues to spin.  Galileo so aptly described the news:  Eppur si muove!

Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay - one of the world's warming lakes - NASA photo

Lake Tahoe, seen here from Emerald Bay, was one of the primary validation sites for the global lake study. The lake, which straddles the borders of California and Nevada, is the largest alpine lake in North America. Image credit: NASA-JPL

Against those religiously inclined to ignore the facts, a modern Galileo could say:  Eppure, lei si scalda!

Just a few months ago critics of science told us that the Copenhagen conference on climate change was unnecessary, because the world is cooling, and not warming.  Eleven months ago, supporters of the theft of e-mails from the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain claimed that researchers had goofed about global warming, and then covered it up.  The sad old Earth kept turning and orbiting . . .

Comes now this news from NASA:

November 23, 2010

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

RELEASE : 10-308

NASA Study Finds Earth’s Lakes Are Warming

WASHINGTON — In the first comprehensive global survey of temperature trends in major lakes, NASA researchers determined Earth’s largest lakes have warmed during the past 25 years in response to climate change.

Researchers Philipp Schneider and Simon Hook of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used satellite data to measure the surface temperatures of 167 large lakes worldwide.

They reported an average warming rate of 0.81 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, with some lakes warming as much as 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. The warming trend was global, and the greatest increases were in the mid- to high-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

“Our analysis provides a new, independent data source for assessing the impact of climate change over land around the world,” said Schneider, lead author of the study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “The results have implications for lake ecosystems, which can be adversely affected by even small water temperature changes.”

Small changes in water temperature can result in algal blooms that can make a lake toxic to fish or result in the introduction of non-native species that change the lake’s natural ecosystem.

Scientists have long used air temperature measurements taken near Earth’s surface to compute warming trends. More recently, scientists have supplemented these measurements with thermal infrared satellite data that can be used to provide a comprehensive, accurate view of how surface temperatures are changing worldwide.

The NASA researchers used thermal infrared imagery from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and European Space Agency satellites. They focused on summer temperatures (July-September in the Northern Hemisphere and January-March in the Southern Hemisphere) because of the difficulty in collecting data in seasons when lakes are ice-covered and/or often hidden by clouds. Only nighttime data were used in the study

The bodies studied were selected from a global database of lakes and wetlands based on size (typically at least 193 square miles or larger) or other unique characteristics of scientific merit. The selected lakes also had to have large surface areas located away from shorelines, so land influences did not interfere with the measurements. Satellite lake data were collected from the point farthest from any shoreline.

The largest and most consistent area of warming was northern Europe. The warming trend was slightly weaker in southeastern Europe, around the Black and Caspian seas and Kazakhstan. The trends increased slightly farther east in Siberia, Mongolia and northern China.

In North America, trends were slightly higher in the southwest United States than in the Great Lakes region. Warming was weaker in the tropics and in the mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere. The results were consistent with the expected changes associated with global warming.

The satellite temperature trends largely agreed with trends measured by nine buoys in the Great Lakes, Earth’s largest group of freshwater lakes in terms of total surface area and volume.

The lake temperature trends were also in agreement with independent surface air temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. In certain regions, such as the Great Lakes and northern Europe, water bodies appear to be warming more quickly than surrounding air temperature.

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

– end –

 

Warming trends in temperate zone lakes, 1985-2009 - NASA image, JPL

Global trends in seasonal nighttime lake surface temperatures, 1985-2009. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltec

World wide, a few lakes show not a great deal of warming, but none of the lakes sampled showed any cooling over the past two-and-a-half decades.


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