There’s been mounting evidence, since last year’s alphabet-depleting hurricane season, that the public are finally starting to get climate change. And that includes not just feeling sheepish or helpless about it, but even being interested in learning more about it.
And now, the icing on the cake (is that a bad choice of words?). Nature runs a paper refining the details of ocean circulation 50,000 years ago and it’s promptly covered by the South Asian Women’s Forum. Right between the stories on record-breaking fingernails and why blondes have more fun. I’m impressed.
They don’t shy away from the details, either. When was the last time you read a news item that contained jargon even half this thick: foraminifera, Dansgaard-Oeschger events, intertropical convergence zone, subtropical gyre?
You can’t explain it as covering the authors, either: neither researcher named in the piece is a woman, let alone a South Asian one. It must be that someone high up in the South Asian Women’s Forum corporate suites believes that their readers are interested in climate change. Hurrah!
The research itself sounds interesting, too, since it seems to counter the prevailing notion that adding fresh water to the North Atlantic can weaken its currents, causing less heat to escape into the atmosphere and making Europe colder. (This is what made Dennis Quaid snowshoe across New York in “The Day After Tomorrow” – remember?)
Today’s Nature paper says the opposite – sort of: that the North Atlantic was saltier during cool periods and fresher during warm periods. But in a neat bit of thinking, authors Matthew Schmidt, Howard Spero, and the only-slightly-South-Asian-sounding Maryline Vautravers suggest this saltiness built up during the cool periods and primed the climate to snap back out of its cold phase (how this works). They chalk up the saltiness to reduced rainfall in the North Atlantic due to changes in the aforementioned intertropical convergence zone. Dang these climatologists have big brains.
The whole story is quite satisfying to me, because the hardest part about buying abrupt climate change has not been accepting such a far-fetched scenario, but realizing it must possess a logical twin: some equally but oppositely complicated explanation about how things are set straight again. A twin that someday, someone is bound to introduce me to, and I will then have to try to both comprehend it and keep drool from collecting at the slack corners of my jaw.
I’m kind of relieved that this one is so simply derived from plain-as-day differences in the amounts of rare elements sequestered in the shells of millenniae-old microscopic plankton.
But then again, what do I know. We should get comments from some actual expert like Mea Cook. It’s a pity the South Asian Women’s Forum didn’t.