ocean’s fury

12/11/2013 by admin

detail of Jamie Hogan illustration for A Warmer World by Caroline Arnold

When crossing the ocean by ferry this morning to Portland, islanders were talking about how COLD it’s getting. Have we not noticed it’s November already? I’ve got geraniums still in bloom in our window boxes! Something’s not right. Almost a year ago, Superstorm Sandy came and went. Briefly, the topic of climate change came ashore, but any  political action was swept away by other distractions. Now we face the aftermath of another superstorm, Typhoon Haiyan, in the Phillipines. Another summit on climate change will take place in Warsaw next week. If you’d like to raise your voice, you can sign a petition to the UN here.

Local teen forecaster, Jack Sillin, has this to say:

Climate change is affecting our weather in 2 main ways. First, there’s the fact that the ocean contains vast amounts of energy, energy that did not exist say 100 years ago. The other main problem is these storms cause much more damage due to increasing sea levels and an increasing coastal population, with more valuable coastal real estate bumping up against where some of the most formidable storms can be found.

The ocean is warming. There is no denying it. The question is, what effect does this have on our weather? My answer is simple- our weather is becoming more volatile. As the oceans warm, the amount of energy available to developing storms is greatly increased. As demonstrated perfectly by Superstorm Sandy, powerful warm core systems can sustain their energy until the point where a merger with a cold core system becomes fatal. Did a Sandy like event occur in the 1700 and 1800’s? No. There was not enough energy in the water to sustain a storm like Sandy beyond Cape Hatteras. If a storm like Sandy was recreated with the one variable changed being the sea temperature, the storm would likely fizzle out before being capable of merging with the cold core systems.

The second thing of concern is sea level rise. Many of our major cities like New York and Boston are at or just barely above sea level, cities that sit in the path of powerful storms like Sandy as well as Nor’easters that have the capability to bring devastating surges. These surges, even if remaining of the same caliber, would cause more damage to coastal cities due to the fact that coastal infrastructure is increasing in both size (quantity) and value. The problem is compounded by the fact that the storms’ intensity, and the resulting surges, are becoming more powerful.

Weather is becoming much more volatile. A perfect storm of increased sea surface temperatures, higher sea levels, and increasing coastal real estate and  infrastructure is causing and will continue to cause major problems around the world. The next question is “what do we do about it?”

Thanks, Forecaster Jack, for sharing your views.

We can all start by contacting our legislators. The cycles set in motion by the ocean’s fury are beyond personal actions of recycling or conservation of energy. We need global action to face the repeating surges of climate change. Learn more about what you can do at 35o. org. As Bill McKibben, founder of the organization says, “there are no backyards.” Volatile weather will find us, one way or another.


Earth Day action!

11/04/2013 by admin

detail of illustration by Jamie Hogan from “A Warmer World” by Caroline Arnold

In celebration of Earth Day, April 22nd, millions of people around the world will do things a little differently to preserve resources and lighten their footprint on the Earth. Here are some ideas for ways you can celebrate.

1. Get your hands dirty!
Volunteering is a great way to contribute on Earth Day and meet new friends in the process. Find out about volunteering opportunities in your community, by checking out the Earth Day Network.

2. Donate to the Canopy Project.
Planting a tree is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve the environment ­and your quality of life. If you don’t have the opportunity to plant trees in your community, you can simply donate to the Canopy Project. For every $1 you contribute, they’ll plant a tree.

3. Pay the “earth-friendly” way!
Save natural resources by enrolling in online bills and statements. You’ll avoid paper, stamps, envelopes, and the fossil fuels used to transport the mail, which are all contributors to our damaged environment.

4. Creative commuting.
Every gallon of gasoline your car burns emits about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. Leave your car at home for the day, and try car pooling, mass transit, biking and walking to school or work if possible. Even just one day a week is significant!

5. Become a year-round Earth ambassador.
Share your personal “green initiatives” with family and friends! When you inspire others to celebrate Earth Day and make environmentally conscious decisions year-around, you have truly made a difference.

hope for the oceans

28/01/2013 by admin

illustration by Jamie Hogan

Here’s an interesting take on what to do with the Great Garbage Patch:


We can help our marine creatures by not leaving trash at the beach, by picking up trash we find, and by thinking twice before accumulating anything plastic to begin with!


Tar sands?

20/01/2013 by admin


Tar sands.

Do these words mean anything to you? They didn’t to me until a few months ago.

Tar sand, called “bitumen”, is sandy earth that has oil mixed in with it. It’s about the consistency of cold molasses.

There is a huge field of tar sand in Alberta, Canada. The field is 54,000 square miles…bigger than England. Just the easy-to-get sands could produce 173 billion barrels of oil.

Getting the tar sand is really hard on the earth, though. All of the trees and plants in the way have to be removed,  the earth and clay is stripped away to uncover the sands so they can be strip mined out. If the sand is too deep to dig out, steam, chemicals and hot water are injected into the ground to heat it up and soften the oil so it can be pumped out. It leaves a barren, toxic mess.

Regular crude oil is usually pumped through a pipeline to move it to a refinery. Tar sand is so thick that it has to be thinned down so it can be pumped. When it’s thinned with chemicals and water it’s called diluted bitumen, or “dil-bit”. By heating it up and using higher pressure than for regular oil the dil-bit can be pushed through a pipeline.

With all the sand and grit, the dil-bit is like hot, toxic sandpaper that can corrode the inside of the pipeline; the higher pressure to move it means a greater chance for the pipe to leak or rupture.

When there is a spill, dil-bit is worse than regular oil. Because of the chemicals mixed with it, the fumes can be dangerous and make people sick or cause respiratory problems. If the spill gets into a river or lake the chemicals will pollute the water. But the dil-bit itself sinks to the bottom, making clean up much more difficult. It has to be scraped up or dredged off the bottom, which is devastating to creatures living there.

A lot of people are against digging up the tar sands. More and more people who live along the pipelines are against it. And now I’m against it because I live on a bay that is at the end of a pipeline that may soon be pumping tar sands here. I’m afraid for the bay, and for the people who live along the pipeline and for the rivers the pipeline crosses.

I’m writing to the elected officials of my town to say I don’t want tar sands coming to New England. I’ve signed petitions with other people across the country that will tell our representatives and the President the same thing.


Here is a poster I made for a rally in my town, and a webpage I put up with information about tar sands.

I’m against tar sands oil, but you should find out more about it and form your own opinion. Maybe you’ll write a letter of your own.

Cool news!

14/12/2012 by admin

A Warmer World is now available in Korea!

Big News!

28/11/2012 by admin

This just in:

A WARMER WORLD is on the National Science Teachers Association/Children’s Book Council

Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12: 2013 list, AND it’s on the

2013 Elementary California Collection list! Fantastic news!




Sandy’s aftermath

19/11/2012 by admin

Weeks ago, illustrator Jamie Hogan spotted the headline: “Mainers told to prepare for Frankenstorm” beneath a photo of Jack Sillin, an eleven-year-old from Yarmouth, Maine who writes a weather blog.  She asked on his blog if climate change was a contributor to big storms.

He replied: “Well, I think that climate change increased the number of storms this year therefore letting this storm form and survive on record warm SST’s.”

Coastal Maine braced for Sandy, but other than some rocky seas, was mostly spared.

Casco Bay Lines ferry struggles to dock during Sandy

In the aftermath of Sandy, opinion appears to have shifted regarding the legitimacy of climate change. While left out of the presidential debates, climate change has returned as a topic of public discourse.

Prior to the election, Bill McKibben, author, professor and environmental activist, promoted a Do the Math Tour with 350.org. It began November 7 on the West Coast and landed in Portland, Maine on November 13.

Bill McKibben speaks at the State Theater in Portland, Maine during his Do the Math Tour on November 13, 2012

Jamie found herself in the company of 1500 cheering on Unity College, the first in the nation to divest from fossil fuel income. Bill McKibben outlined the basics of climate change science, specifically the need to bring the carbon concentration in the atmosphere down to the sustainable level of 350 parts per million.

He says it’s beyond individual responsibility. Yes, cut back on driving, cut back on energy use. But the picture is much larger. It’s political. It’s not about this plant or that drilling. It’s about our world.

“There are no more backyards,” he said.

The impacts of climate change involve melting glaciers, acidifying oceans, rising sea levels, mosquitoes spreading, and like Sandy, more severe weather, more hurricanes, droughts, and everything more unpredictable.

We knew Sandy was coming. In her wake, where are we going?

Visit www.350.org to learn ways to participate in actions that can change the course of our planet.

This crowd in Portland, Maine is ready to roll!

Bill McKibben rallies the crowd at the State Theater

Chicago: Green Roofs Make the City Cooler

10/10/2012 by admin

In summer, cities are hotter than surrounding rural areas because tall buildings and paved streets soak up and hold in the sun’s heat. One way to deal with rising temperatures is to plant gardens on tops of buildings. Here is a slide show of rooftop gardens in the city of Chicago. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/multimedia/chicago/index.html These green oases are cooling the air, helping to reduce the need for air conditioning, soaking up rainwater, making the city beautiful, and sometimes even used for growing vegetables! You can read more about what Chicago is doing to combat climate change at the PBS News Hour website. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/climate-change/july-dec12/climate_10-09.html

Warmer World Book Trailer!

01/10/2012 by admin

Habitats on the Move

10/09/2012 by admin

Climate Lab at the Chabot Space and Science Museum, Oakland, CA

As the world grows warmer, plants and animals sometimes have to move

to find cooler habitats.  In Arizona, the rare Mt. Graham red squirrel lives

in mountain forests above 8,500 feet.  Now climate change threatens its survival.

If the climate grows warmer, the forests will change and force the squirrels to

adapt or go extinct. At the Chabot Space and Science Museum in Oakland, California,

you can learn about Earth’s changing climate from Bill Nye the Science Guy in the

interactive exhibits in the newly opened Climate Lab.

Moving habitats in the Climate Lab

At the Habitats on the Move exhibit you can put animals into their appropriate

habitats by matching the colors of their labels to the bands in the pyramid.

What do you think happens to the animals at the top when their habitat becomes too warm?