As if Earth isn’t warming fast enough, Jim Elliott wants to speed things up.
To do it, Elliott has fashioned what look like 20 oversized bed frames on a remote patch of desert south of Belen to create an extra bit of global warming on a very small scale.
Elliott is the self-described “blue-collar scientist”— the guy who knows how to use tools— on a team trying to answer a deceptively simple question: What will happen here as our planet warms?
Scientists no longer question whether Earth is warming, and few doubt that the stuff coming out of our tailpipes is the primary cause. Much research today is focused on what will happen as a result.
Led by University of New Mexico scientist Joe Fargione, they are building contraptions to impose global warming conditions on a patch of desert to see how plants growing here respond.
Spread across 400 square miles, the Sevilleta is an ideal laboratory for the research, spanning the sort of ecological boundaries where change is most apparent.
In the case of Fargione’s research, the important boundary is the northern edge of the creosote’s range. That boundary has been creeping northward, and warmer temperatures are one possible explanation because of creosote’s sensitivity to winter freezes.
The scientists want to see if creosote will have an edge in a warming world. They also want to know whether the mix of grasses on the site will change to favor those more comfortable in warmer weather.