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petronius

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Gender: Male
Hometown: California
Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 25,940

About Me

Inveniet quod quisque velit; non omnibus unum est, quod placet; hic spinas colligit, ille rosas.

Journal Archives

I've always liked this version:

How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2016/05/09/how-to-read-and-understand-a-scientific-paper-a-guide-for-non-scientists/

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Reading a scientific paper is a completely different process than reading an article about science in a blog or newspaper. Not only do you read the sections in a different order than they’re presented, but you also have to take notes, read it multiple times, and probably go look up other papers for some of the details. Reading a single paper may take you a very long time at first. Be patient with yourself. The process will go much faster as you gain experience.

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Before you begin reading, take note of the authors and their institutional affiliations. Some institutions (e.g. University of Texas) are well-respected; others (e.g. the Discovery Institute) may appear to be legitimate research institutions but are actually agenda-driven. Tip: google “Discovery Institute” to see why you don’t want to use it as a scientific authority on evolutionary theory.

Also take note of the journal in which it’s published. Reputable (biomedical) journals will be indexed by Pubmed. {EDIT: Several people have reminded me that non-biomedical journals won’t be on Pubmed, and they’re absolutely correct! (thanks for catching that, I apologize for being sloppy here). Check out Web of Science for a more complete index of science journals. And please feel free to share other resources in the comments!} Beware of questionable journals.

As you read, write down every single word that you don’t understand. You’re going to have to look them all up (yes, every one. I know it’s a total pain. But you won’t understand the paper if you don’t understand the vocabulary. Scientific words have extremely precise meanings).

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http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2016/05/09/how-to-read-and-understand-a-scientific-paper-a-guide-for-non-scientists/

Some thoughtful and useful advice here (with embedded links). Although perhaps this post should be packaged with a post on "Living a balanced life: a guide for scientists." (The reading process described is a bit time-consuming... )

What a Wet Winter Means for Wildfire Season

Above-average precipitation in California and other parts of the West doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fewer wildfires this season – the Golden State has already seen more than twice as many acres burned as it did last year.

Every spring firefighters throughout the West approach the summer season with a proverbial prediction: If the winter was dry, all those parched trees will burn like torches; if it was a wet winter, all those new grasses will fuel quick fire starts and hot, runaway flames.

After a winter that left record piles of snow in the mountains and drenched most of California’s valleys, it’s no surprise that it is grass fires that are fueling a fast start to the state’s 2017 fire season. More than 16,000 acres had burned by June 3 in 1,229 blazes, most of them in central and southern California.

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We can look to the hills for relief, federal officials said. The rains that are fueling the green-up in the valleys fell as snow at the higher elevations. The result is a slow start to the fire season in the Sierra Nevada, mostly managed by the United States Forest Service: just 2,576 acres of federal lands had burned by June 3. By June 7 last year, nearly 13,000 acres had burned. The moisture should lead to a delayed and shorter season overall in the Sierra, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, ID.

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https://www.newsdeeply.com/water/articles/2017/06/19/what-a-wet-winter-means-for-future-of-wildfire-season

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I knew that a wet winter provided fuel, but I didn't know about the difference between grass/scrub and mountain forests - that all this moisture will slow things down in the Sierra, but the grass lands and other semi-arid regions will burn more intensely. Also an interesting point that a slower fire season in the high-elevations will allow more controlled burns to deal with beetle-killed trees...

Climate Change Is Shrinking the Colorado River

The nation’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead on the Arizona/Nevada border and Lake Powell on the Arizona/Utah border, were brim full in the year 2000. Four short years later, they had lost enough water to supply California its legally apportioned share of Colorado River water for more than five years. Now, 17 years later, they still have not recovered.

This ongoing, unprecedented event threatens water supplies to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque and some of the most productive agricultural lands anywhere in the world. It is critical to understand what is causing it so water managers can make realistic water use and conservation plans.

While overuse has played a part, a significant portion of the reservoir decline is due to an ongoing drought, which started in 2000 and has led to substantial reductions in river flows. Most droughts are caused by a lack of precipitation. However, our published research shows that about one-third of the flow decline was likely due to higher temperatures in the Colorado River’s Upper Basin, which result from climate change.

This distinction matters because climate change is causing long-term warming that will continue for centuries. As the current “hot drought” shows, climate change-induced warming has the potential to make all droughts more serious, turning what would have been modest droughts into severe ones, and severe ones into unprecedented ones.

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https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/environment/climate-change-shrinking-colorado-river/


Caption: The combined contents of the nation’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, since their initial fillings. The large decline since 2000 is shaded brown for 2000-2014, our 15-year study period, and pink for the continuing drought in 2015-2016. The loss was significantly influenced by record-setting temperatures, unlike a similar 15-year drought in the 1950s which was driven by a lack of precipitation. (Bradley Udall, Author provided)




Lots of excellent links and graphics at the article source, and a much longer discussion...

McGill database will help climate-change experts track world's lakes

When it comes to lake water, some McGill University geographers are in deep.

They spent the past three years calculating the most precise estimates yet for the amount of water contained in the world’s 1.42 million lakes.

And ecologists, climate-change experts and other scientists are about to reap the benefits of their research, published Thursday in the journal Nature Communications.

Most lakes have been mapped but “one thing that was completely missing was the volume of lake water,” said senior author Bernhard Lehner, an associate professor in McGill’s geography department.

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http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/mcgill-database-will-help-climate-change-experts-track-worlds-lakes

Africa at highest risk of major economic blow from future climate threats: global index

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Countries most dependent on agriculture are also at high risk of experiencing changes in climate over the next 30 years and face the biggest costs in dealing with the effects of extreme weather, according to a global climate index published on Monday.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 17 of the 20 countries most economically reliant on agriculture in the world.

Of the 17, all but two are at "high" or "extreme" risk of experiencing changes in temperature and rainfall, and extremes such as drought and floods, according to the Climate Change Exposure Index.

These are typically countries whose governments lack the financial or technical resources to plan 20 or 30 years in advance, said Richard Hewston, principal environmental analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a UK-based risk management company which compiled the index.

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http://www.reuters.com/article/us-agriculture-climatechange-idUSKBN14802K


A couple of relevant past DU threads:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/1127100316
http://www.democraticunderground.com/112777572
http://www.democraticunderground.com/112769104

Rising Reality: Bay Area bracing for rising sea levels

Chronicle Urban Design Critic John King explores the challenges posed by sea level rise in the Bay Area, from the perils facing San Francisco's crumbling Embarcadero to the struggles to revive marshes and the creation of a small city on Treasure Island.

http://projects.sfchronicle.com/2016/sea-level-rise/

A five-part series on sea level rise in the Bay Area, from the Chronicle. Doesn't seem to be pay-walled, and I didn't notice it posted before.

500-year-old clams unlock history of oceans

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By studying growth rings in the shells of quahog clams, scientists have pieced together the history of the North Atlantic Ocean over the past 1,000 years. The method is similar to how tree rings can serve as climate proxies by revealing clues about past weather and climate changes, including droughts.

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By studying the clams' shells, scientists from Cardiff University and Bangor University in Wales found that the ocean's relationship with the atmosphere drastically changed over the centuries. That is likely due to the influence of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that have been pumped into the atmosphere from humanity's burning of fossil fuels, beginning with the Industrial Revolution.

Although clams have been used as climate proxies through the field called sclerochronology since the 1970s, the new study is the first time researchers have been able to obtain a 1,000-year record of the ocean with absolute dating precision, according to lead author David Reynolds of Cardiff University.

In the pre-industrial era, roughly before 1800, the climate was driven by natural factors such as volcanic eruptions and solar activity, he said. At that time, the ocean influenced the atmosphere. But since then, it's been the other way around: The atmosphere, with its increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, has driven major shifts underwater.

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http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/sciencefair/2016/12/06/500-year-old-clams-oceans-climate/95040372/

http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms13502

Climate change is a serious threat, Pentagon says as it shores up vulnerable sites

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President-elect Donald Trump has described global warming as a hoax, and Republicans in Congress who reject science showing that greenhouse gases have warmed the planet have blocked funding to help the Pentagon assess the damage and plan for the future.

The House voted in June to bar the Defense Department from spending money to evaluate how climate change would affect military training, combat, weapons purchases and other needs.

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But the debate is settled at the Pentagon. Rising sea levels and temperatures have forced it to rebuild or move roads, housing, airfields and other vulnerable facilities damaged by mudslides in Hawaii, floods in Virginia, drought in California and thawing permafrost in Alaska.

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The Pentagon doesn’t say that climate change alone will cause wars. But the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Defense Department’s major planning plan for the next four years, calls it an “accelerant of instability” and a “threat multiplier.”

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http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/nation-world/national/article116053413.html

Why did Greenlands Vikings disappear?

In 1721, missionary Hans Egede sailed a ship called The Hope from Norway to Greenland, seeking Norse farmers whom Europeans hadn't heard from in 200 years in order to convert them to Protestantism. He explored iceberg-dotted fjords that gave way to gentle valleys, and silver lakes that shimmered below the massive ice cap. But when he asked the Inuit hunters he met about the Norse, they showed him crumbling stone church walls: the only remnants of 500 years of occupation. "What has been the fate of so many human beings, so long cut off from all intercourse with the more civilized world?" Egede wrote in an account of the journey. "Were they destroyed by an invasion of the natives … [or] perished by the inclemency of the climate, and the sterility of the soil?"

Archaeologists still wonder today. No chapter of Arctic history is more mysterious than the disappearance of these Norse settlements sometime in the 15th century. Theories for the colony's failure have included everything from sinister Basque pirates to the Black Plague. But historians have usually pinned most responsibility on the Norse themselves, arguing that they failed to adapt to a changing climate. The Norse settled Greenland from Iceland during a warm period around 1000 C.E. But even as a chilly era called the Little Ice Age set in, the story goes, they clung to raising livestock and church-building while squandering natural resources like soil and timber. Meanwhile, the seal-hunting, whale-eating Inuit survived in the very same environment.

Over the last decade, however, new excavations across the North Atlantic have forced archaeologists to revise some of these long-held views. An international research collective called the North Atlantic Biocultural Organisation (NABO) has accumulated precise new data on ancient settlement patterns, diet, and landscape. The findings suggest that the Greenland Norse focused less on livestock and more on trade, especially in walrus ivory, and that for food they relied more on the sea than on their pastures. There's no doubt that climate stressed the colony, but the emerging narrative is not of an agricultural society short on food, but a hunting society short on labor and susceptible to catastrophes at sea and social unrest.

Historian Poul Holm of Trinity College in Dublin lauds the new picture, which reveals that the Greenland Norse were "not a civilization stuck in their ways." To NABO archaeologist George Hambrecht of the University of Maryland in College Park, "The new story is that they adapted but they failed anyway."

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http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/11/why-did-greenland-s-vikings-disappear

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