DIGITAL MAGAZINE

May 2020

DIGITAL MAGAZINE

May 2020

Cover design by Thomas Gaulkin

Known as pyramid tents or Scott tents, they’re essentially the same tent design used by the original polar explorers a hundred years ago, capable of withstanding winds of up to 70 miles per hour. “They’re just so good, they got the design perfect,” says the author. Image courtesy of Peter Davis.

Peter Davis of the British Antarctic Survey on changes in the Thwaites Glacier

On the Thwaites Glacier on Antarctica’s western shelf, researchers are going all-out to learn what is happening deep under the surface of the ice, out of sight: How much is melting from below, where the ice comes into contact with warm ocean waters? Is the ice relatively solid throughout and resting solidly on the seabed, or is it about to slip off and dramatically raise the world’s sea levels?
Known as pyramid tents or Scott tents, they’re essentially the same tent design used by the original polar explorers a hundred years ago, capable of withstanding winds of up to 70 miles per hour. “They’re just so good, they got the design perfect,” says the author. Image courtesy of Peter Davis.

Peter Davis of the British Antarctic Survey on changes in the Thwaites Glacier

On the Thwaites Glacier on Antarctica’s western shelf, researchers are going all-out to learn what is happening deep under the surface of the ice, out of sight: How much is melting from below, where the ice comes into contact with warm ocean waters? Is the ice relatively solid throughout and resting solidly on the seabed, or is it about to slip off and dramatically raise the world’s sea levels?
The Alaska National Guard has been used to fight extensive Alaskan wildfires. (Photo by Sherman Hogue/Fort Wainwright Public Affairs Office.)

Brian Brettschneider: How climate change has already arrived in the Arctic

Brian Brettschneider says that the last few years have brought not only major events such as record-low sea ice in the Bering Sea and unprecedented Arctic wildfires, but also changes that are perhaps less stark, such as shifting tree lines, glacial melt, and changing vegetation.
A forest test plot, where snow was removed to see the effects of the lack of this insulating blanket. (Image courtesy of Pamela Templer.)

Shorter, warmer winters, less snow. What next? Q&A with biologist Pamela Templer

Decades of data collected at the nation’s experimental forests show that the winters are getting shorter and warmer, meaning that there will be less snow to protect the microfauna and microflora below. To find out what this could mean for New England’s forests, biologist Pamela Templer of Boston University and her team have been conducting experiments to see what climate change has in store for the future of the forest floor.

How we know the Earth is warming and humans are responsible

Only two-thirds of Americans are confident in the knowledge that global warming is happening, and a bare majority understand that it’s mostly caused by human activities. One-third of Americans continue to believe that global warming is mostly natural. In reality, the scientific evidence demonstrating that global warming is happening and human-caused is overwhelming, which is why there is a 90 to 100 percent expert consensus on human-caused global warming.
Hampton Roads. (Photo by Copernicus Sentinel-2, ESA.)

Sea level rise and beyond: Is the US military prepared for climate change?

Climate change has already wrought economic and physical havoc on US military bases. In Hampton Roads, an area of Virginia described by some as the greatest concentration of military might in the world, rising sea levels and worsening storms threaten basic operations. Elsewhere wildfires and melting permafrost limit the types of operations the military can conduct, affecting its ability to respond to conflicts and humanitarian disasters. While the military has commissioned studies and funded resilience efforts, climate change impacts continue to grow more serious and more difficult to address.
One conception of using lasers to power a spacecraft. (Image courtesy Breakthrough Initiatives at: https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/initiative/3)

Reaching for the stars: The case for cooperative governance of directed energy technologies

The kind of advances in spaceflight envisioned in the mid-twentieth century have largely failed to materialize, thereby limiting space exploration to relatively small areas of a very large galaxy. That will change with the advent of directed energy technologies, specifically laser propulsion. The privately funded Breakthrough Starshot program is already working on such a propulsion system to carry nanosatellite Star Chips to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri. But powerful lasers—a dual-use technology much like rocketry, nuclear energy, and cyber technology, which have both security-related and civilian uses—have been largely stigmatized as weapons.

The climate change evidence right before our eyes. And a note on COVID-19

For this issue of the Bulletin, I decided to try what I call the “so deny this” approach, asking our authors to offer concrete, indisputable evidence that climate change is happening right now, right before our eyes, along with clear explanations of why that physical evidence can’t reasonably be explained, except as a result of warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
The Alaska National Guard has been used to fight extensive Alaskan wildfires. (Photo by Sherman Hogue/Fort Wainwright Public Affairs Office.)

Brian Brettschneider: How climate change has already arrived in the Arctic

Brian Brettschneider says that the last few years have brought not only major events such as record-low sea ice in the Bering Sea and unprecedented Arctic wildfires, but also changes that are perhaps less stark, such as shifting tree lines, glacial melt, and changing vegetation.
A forest test plot, where snow was removed to see the effects of the lack of this insulating blanket. (Image courtesy of Pamela Templer.)

Shorter, warmer winters, less snow. What next? Q&A with biologist Pamela Templer

Decades of data collected at the nation’s experimental forests show that the winters are getting shorter and warmer, meaning that there will be less snow to protect the microfauna and microflora below. To find out what this could mean for New England’s forests, biologist Pamela Templer of Boston University and her team have been conducting experiments to see what climate change has in store for the future of the forest floor.

How we know the Earth is warming and humans are responsible

Only two-thirds of Americans are confident in the knowledge that global warming is happening, and a bare majority understand that it’s mostly caused by human activities. One-third of Americans continue to believe that global warming is mostly natural. In reality, the scientific evidence demonstrating that global warming is happening and human-caused is overwhelming, which is why there is a 90 to 100 percent expert consensus on human-caused global warming.
Hampton Roads. (Photo by Copernicus Sentinel-2, ESA.)

Sea level rise and beyond: Is the US military prepared for climate change?

Climate change has already wrought economic and physical havoc on US military bases. In Hampton Roads, an area of Virginia described by some as the greatest concentration of military might in the world, rising sea levels and worsening storms threaten basic operations. Elsewhere wildfires and melting permafrost limit the types of operations the military can conduct, affecting its ability to respond to conflicts and humanitarian disasters. While the military has commissioned studies and funded resilience efforts, climate change impacts continue to grow more serious and more difficult to address.
One conception of using lasers to power a spacecraft. (Image courtesy Breakthrough Initiatives at: https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/initiative/3)

Reaching for the stars: The case for cooperative governance of directed energy technologies

The kind of advances in spaceflight envisioned in the mid-twentieth century have largely failed to materialize, thereby limiting space exploration to relatively small areas of a very large galaxy. That will change with the advent of directed energy technologies, specifically laser propulsion. The privately funded Breakthrough Starshot program is already working on such a propulsion system to carry nanosatellite Star Chips to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri. But powerful lasers—a dual-use technology much like rocketry, nuclear energy, and cyber technology, which have both security-related and civilian uses—have been largely stigmatized as weapons.

The climate change evidence right before our eyes. And a note on COVID-19

For this issue of the Bulletin, I decided to try what I call the “so deny this” approach, asking our authors to offer concrete, indisputable evidence that climate change is happening right now, right before our eyes, along with clear explanations of why that physical evidence can’t reasonably be explained, except as a result of warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Cover design by Thomas Gaulkin

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Bulletin cover May 2020
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Bulletin cover May 2020
January 2020 bulletin of the atomic scientists magazine cover nuclear weapons united states president election
Albert Einstein in Washington, D.C., between 1921 and 1923. Harris & Ewing, photographers. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016885961/

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