The relationship between beetle kills and forest fire

In contrast to common assumptions of positive feedbacks, we find that insects generally reduce the severity of subsequent wildfires. Specific effects vary with insect type and timing, but both insects decrease the abundance of live vegetation susceptible to wildfire at multiple time lags. By dampening subsequent burn severity, native insects could buffer rather than exacerbate …

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5 million years ago, when the Colorado River made its first dash to the sea

In a neat new paper looking at sediment layers near Blythe, California, Jordan Bright of the University of California and colleagues (paper here, $ gated) argue that they’ve found evidence of the moment (in geological time, the “moment” is really hundreds of years) when the Colorado River made its first dash to the sea. The …

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Tree Rings and Megadroughts

Mount Holyoke’s “Academic Minute” has a nice interview with Park Williams, who’s been using tree rings to flesh out the story of the current drought in the context of historic droughts, as it pertains to forests in the Southwest: I study the year-by-year records left by these rings, and they tell a fascinating story more …

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In defense of “vapor pressure deficit”

If you follow weather forecasts, you’ve heard about “relative humidity” (RH). But it’s one of those maddeningly less-than-useful measures of our weather that probably needs to be just retired. That’s wishful thinking, of course. But in an interesting introduction to their latest research into the increasing dryness of the air and the risk of fire …

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On climate, a call for more social science

David Victor on the need for better inclusion of social science in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: The IPCC must overhaul how it engages with the social sciences in particular….¬†Fields such as sociology, political science and anthropology are central to understanding how people and societies comprehend and respond to environmental changes, …

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