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What's climate change ruining today?

Crunchy, tart apples — defined by some* as the only kind of apples worth eating — could soon be threatened by changing climates. A study of 40 years worth of harvests from Japanese orchards growing Fuji and Tsugaru apples found that, over time, those varieties have become softer and sweeter — a fact that's probably driven by warmer temperatures prompting earlier flowering of the trees.

You can go wading in the lake at the North Pole

Last week, Dean told you about the lake at the North Pole, a pool of melted ice captured on camera by the North Pole Environmental Observatory webcams.

At Climate Central, Andrew Freedman provides some really fascinating context that illustrates the changing nature of, well, nature ... and draws a big, heavy underline on how difficult it can be to make assumptions about what is and what isn't an effect of climate change. Arctic sea ice is melting in concert with rising global average temperatures, but (contrary to the knee-jerk assumption I made about this story) the lake at the North Pole may or may not have anything to do with that. In fact, little pools have been forming at the North Pole in summer for as long as we've been paying attention. They don't actually represent the total melting of ice, but rather a layer of slushy water that forms on top of solidly frozen ice — usually, you could wade out through them and never get more than waist-deep.

What's more, the picture above wasn't taken at the North Pole. That's because the North Pole Elemental Observatory — which sits on mobile ice — has moved far from the actual North Pole since its launch. So, there probably is a lake (more of a pond, really) at the North Pole, but it might not be caused by climate change. While this lake, which isn't at the North Pole, could well be part of the melting sea ice that climate change does cause. But it also might not, because what happens as a result of climate change is always layered on top of stuff that just happens. In order to be able to tell the difference, you have to do a lot of scientific analysis — much more than you can get from one picture.

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Randall Munroe finishes "Time," the 3,099-panel XKCD serial

Randall Munroe has finally finished Time, his 3,000+ frame slow-motion animation that began life as wordless, enigmatic single-panel XKCD installment. Since then, the panel has been slowly, slowly updating itself, running out its course over several months. Geekwagon has collected the whole series in an easy-to-control window, and the story, taken as a whole, is a beautiful and odd existentialist parable touching on the discovery of geographic knowledge; cultural first contacts; environmental disaster, friendship and ingenuity. (Thanks, @dexitroboper!)

Meltwater lake forms at North Pole

Photo credit: NOAA

NOAA's Arctic division maintains a couple of webcams at the North Pole, and one of them is showing a pretty impressive meltwater lake forming around it. Previous years show small ponds forming and refreezing throughout the summer, but this year nearly all the snow in view of the camera has melted into a lake-sized slush.

Check out this time lapse video of the lake forming. Much more photos and videos from this year and previous years at NOAA's website.

Evangelical Christian scientists in Oklahoma

This is not the story you're expecting. Instead, Tulsa TV news channel 6 is reporting on a group of 200 Oklahoman evangelical Christian scientists who have banded together to urge Congress to both accept the science of anthropogenic climate change, and take action to prevent the worst of its effects. Stuff like this is important. Research shows that one of the best ways to change minds on controversial social issues is to have the mind-changing message delivered by someone who is part of the community to be changed. Messages from insiders are more convincing than lectures from outsiders.

Climate change creating "heat islands" for blacks, Asians, Latinos in US

Writing at GRIST, Susie Cagle points to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which finds that "not all neighborhoods and racial groups are faring equally" as climate change raises temps in urban areas: "According to the research, blacks, Asians, and Latinos are all significantly more likely to live in high-risk heat-island conditions than white people."

Flooding in Toronto

Toronto experienced 100mm of rain yesterday, resulting in widespread flooding. 300,000 people were without power for a time, and a GO commuter train had to be evacuated. Edward Vielmetti has rounded up some of the most dramatic photos tweeted by people on the scene.

July 8, 2013 Toronto flooding (via Interesting People)

Risk of forest fires rising near Chernobyl

A trend towards drier, hotter summers in the forests around the abandoned nuclear power plant at Chernobyl has increased the riks of forest fires in the region — which is a big deal, considering the fact that trees and plants in the area have absorbed some of the radioactive isotopes from the 1986 disaster. If they burn, more people will be exposed to airborne particles. It's a small fraction compared with the people exposed by the original Chernobyl power plant fire, but still dangerous.

Our planet just had the third warmest May in recorded history

Earth experienced its 8th warmest spring on record, and the third warmest May, with average global temperature in May 1.19 degrees F. above the 20th-century average, matching 1998 and 2005 for the third warmest May dating back to 1880. WaPo: "The global temperature has been above average now 339 straight months (more than 28 years). The last time global temperatures were below average (February, 1985)."

400 ppm carbon dioxide? In my atmosphere?

It's true, at least for today. Although the real concern in climate science is average concentrations of carbon dioxide over much longer periods of time, surpassing the 400 ppm mark, even for a day, is a historic milestone. 400 ppm was once a level we talked about avoiding altogether through mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, it's a reminder that we're not really doing anything to circumvent the steady increase in global carbon dioxide concentrations and global average temperature. Happy Friday!

What's climate change ruining now?: The sex lives of painted turtles

The sex of these turtles is determined by the temperature of the nest while the baby turtles are still egg-bound. The warmer the nest, the more likely the turtles end up female. The warmer it gets in the American Midwest, the more painted turtle society turns into whatever the opposite of a sausage fest is. Now, depending on your personal inclinations, you could argue that this might actually improve turtle sex — but it definitely puts a damper on creating new generations of baby turtles.

What's climate change making more awesome today?

Remember, climate change isn't intentionally trying to make your life miserable. It's just a trend in rising global average temperatures. That comes along with lots of side effects, some of which do, in fact, make human life pretty miserable. In other cases, though, the effect can be beneficial. For instance: In Antarctica, climate change seems to be increasing the population of adorable Adelie penguins.

What's climate change ruining today?

Okay, sure, jet travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions (this is situation where a small percentage is actually a really big number, fyi). So this is maybe more ironic than tragic, but it turns out that some scientists think changing climates could have an effect on air turbulence. Specifically, one model suggests it will increase the ferocity and frequency of surprise areas of turbulence that pilots can't see coming.

It's tin foil hats, all the way down

In 2010, scientists published a paper on conspiracist ideation as it applied to both climate change and the moon landing. This year, the published a second paper — about the conspiracy theories that sprung up in response to their previous research.

Biggest threat in the Pacific, according to top U.S. Admiral? Climate Change.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, "no smelly hippie," according to Wired News, believes the consequences of a warming planet are likely to “cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.” According to Danger Room, he said, “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.” [Danger Room |]

More accurate, but less reliable

This is a fascinating problem that affects a lot of scientific modeling (in fact, I'll be talking about this in the second part of my series on gun violence research) — the more specific and accurate your predictions, the less reliable they sometimes become. Think about climate science. When you read the IPCC reports, what you see are predictions about what is likely to happen on a global basis, and those predictions come in the form of a range of possible outcomes. Results like that are reliable — i.e, they've matched up with observed changes. But they aren't super accurate — i.e., they don't tell you exactly what will happen, and they generally don't tell you much about what might happen in your city or your state. We have tools that can increase the specificity and accuracy, but those same tools also seem to reduce the reliability of the outcomes. At The Curious Wavefunction, Ashutosh Jogalekar explains the problem in more detail and talks about how it affects scientist's ability to give politicians and the public the kind of absolute, detailed, specific answers they really want.

Narrative long reads that make climate change make sense

Anecdotes aren't data, but they do make data memorable. Alice Bell has a list of books that use storytelling and narrative to explain the often complicated science of climate change. One of the books on the list — Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming — is an oft-recommended favorite of mine. If for no other reason than the fact that I like to see how people react when I explain that we have known about the science behind climate change since the 19th century. And if it didn't work the way we think it does, then Earth would be a cold wasteland, like Mars. (Bonus, Weart and the Institute of Physics have a fantastic website that delves deeper into Weart's sources and can help you do your own research and answer follow-up questions.)