News Agriculture Climate change Hurricanes Space

Back to Back Hurricanes, Bumblebee Weather, and Exoplanets: The Latest Headlines

  • By AMS Staff
  • Nov 12, 2021

Here are a few of the news stories that we've been following in the last week. Do you have a story we missed? Share it in the community!

Back-to-back hurricanes likely to increase along the Gulf Coast

Over the past four decades, the time between tropical storms making landfall in the Gulf Coast has been getting shorter. By the end of the century, Louisiana and Florida could be twice as likely to experience two tropical storms that make landfall within nine days of each other, according to new model estimates.

Florida and Louisiana are most likely to experience “sequential landfall,” where one hurricane moves over land faster than infrastructure damaged in a previous storm can be repaired. The researchers estimate this timescale between hurricanes to be 10 days for those states. Being hit by two storms in quick succession gives communities and infrastructure less time to recover between disasters — a significant problem for a region with a swelling population that has struggled to recover following previous natural disasters. Read more on the research.

An explainer for sea level rise - what’s happening and what will happen

The U.S. East Coast has been experiencing hurricane-like flooding in recent days, with Georgia and the Carolinas getting the latest round. High tides are part of the problem, but there’s another risk that has been slowly creeping up: sea level rise.

Since 1880, average global sea levels have risen by more than 8 inches (23 centimeters), and the rate has been accelerating with climate change. 

Read the full story here

Emissions reductions now could provide dramatic health benefits by 2030

Acting now to reduce fossil fuel emissions will result in improved air quality and dramatic reductions in pollution-related deaths, illnesses and economic losses across the United States by 2030, a new study by scientists at Duke University, NASA and Columbia University shows.

About 4.5 million premature deaths, 1.4 million hospitalizations and emergency room visits, 300 million lost workdays due to heat exposure or pollution-related respiratory illnesses, and 440 million tons of crop losses could be prevented nationwide if governments worldwide agree to immediately begin reducing emissions to levels needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 2°C through the end of the century.

Read more on the study here.

James Webb Telescope will give new insight into the extreme weather of exoplanets

Discovered in 2016, WASP-76b is perhaps the most well-known of the ultra-hot exoplanets. At double the size of our own planet Jupiter, WASP-76b has day-side temperatures reaching a whopping 2,400 C, and takes less than two days to orbit its parent star. Its claim to fame, however, is a 2020 study suggesting that liquid iron might literally be raining down from its skies.

More recent research, yet to be peer-reviewed, has called this result into question. But there's no doubt that the conditions on WASP-76b are totally unlike anything here on Earth. WASP-76b can therefore offer us a window into the most extreme physical and chemical processes in our galaxy, and studying its harsh alien conditions can help us place our own solar system into context. Current efforts to study these planets are harnessing high tech solutions on Earth; the launch of the Jame Webb Space Telescope will give even more insights.

Read more on the study and weather of exoplanets.

Hotter temperatures threaten bumblebee pollination and a large part of our diet

There's a sweet spot where floral nectar that bees eat has just the right balance of microbes like bacteria and yeast in it. Hotter weather can upset the balance, endangering the bees' health and potentially, our own.

A new study in the journal Microbial Ecology examines the effects of these nectar composition changes on an American bumblebee. Without bumblebees, who perform a type of pollination that honeybees do not, it would be difficult to mass produce food crops like tomatoes, blueberries, peppers, or potatoes.

Read the full story.

NASA’s new earth science mission will study tropical storms

NASA has selected a new Earth science mission that will study the behavior of tropical storms and thunderstorms, including their impacts on weather and climate models. The mission will be a collection of three SmallSats, flying in tight coordination, called Investigation of Convective Updrafts (INCUS), and is expected to launch in 2027 as part of NASA’s Earth Venture Program.

“Every one of our Earth science missions is carefully chosen to add to a robust portfolio of research about the planet we live on,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “INCUS fills an important niche to help us understand extreme weather and its impact on climate models – all of which serves to provide crucial information needed to mitigate weather and climate effects on our communities.” 

Read more on the new mission.

University of Vermont releases climate assessment for the state

The University of Vermont study finds the state's average annual temperature has warmed by nearly 2°F, and precipitation has increased by a whopping 21%, since 1900.

The study is Vermont's first state climate assessment since 2014—and shows that many hallmarks of Vermont life are being impacted by climate change, from farming and maple syrup to long winters and skiing. Read more about the climate assessment and Vermont's future outlook