How do you talk about climate change to your neighbors?

On this website I’ve written about climate change extensively over the years. Sea level rise is a settled fact and 10 justifications ocean acidification is a serious concern were posts from five years ago and still very timely topics. But nonetheless it still seems like a subject that I tend to hesitate or stall when speaking to family, friends, and neighbors. It’s not that I fear that I might stumble upon skeptics or deniers but my technique for crafting the conversation with confidence just isn’t there. As a formal educator in the classroom I tended to have plenty of confidence as I was in a setting where I could do demonstrations and present and discuss realtime data often. I was very excited to stumble upon the Climate Stewards webinar on Teaching the Science & Rhetoric of Climate ChangeStrategies, Pitfalls, and Keeping Your Chin Above Water in Turbulent Times presented Dr. Krista Hiser and Dr. Wendy Kuntz from the University of Hawaii, Kapi’olani Community College.

Sometimes I tend to make evening webinars a background while working on other projects (Shhh …!), but, I was taken and envious of the course these professors had developed. You see Dr. Hiser is a professor of Composition and Rhetoric and Dr. Kuntz is an Associate Professor of Biology and Ecology. This is a marriage made in heaven for science communication and all of their students! In the presentation for their class they discussed the importance of this relationship and is highlighted in the class overview “Climate change is complex and multi-faceted. Student learning is most lasting and positive when reinforced across disciplines.”

An important aspect of the class they talked about was a service learning project so I’ve given up hope of taking it online anytime soon. However, my amazing takeaways (i.e., as a person that wants to keep it simple for the readers here) were some ideas on how to be poised and self-assured when skirting around the discussion of climate change. The professors brought up the controversial DYK that the Associated Press states that “to describe those who don’t accept climate science or dispute the world is warming from man-made forces, use climate change doubters or those who reject mainstream climate science. Avoid use of skeptics or deniers.” When I heard this a light came on for me … I thought well in any discussion all I might need to do is erase some doubt by pointing to mainstream climate science. Sounds easy? But, any audience is going to have to have an understanding of Earth’s Energy Balance. When I think of the Earth’s Energy Balance I tend to think of the atmospheric and water cycle with man-made ingredients such as deforestation and fossil fuel emissions added. This is a relationship that is clearly unbalanced and can be linked to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution.

The next part of the webinar included some advice on what would be most effective in conversations with confidence. Here are five ideas that I hope to practice in my new Chicagoland home:

  • Commit to having at least 3-5 facts that you can understand and CAN REPEAT
  • Provide measurable actions someone can do
  • Create a metaphor for what climate change is to you or your local audience
  • Name some of the impacts in your local or national area
  • Define what climate change may do in 20 years in your area

Some ideas that I will plan to avoid will be:

  • Stray from green rhetoric such as “the future”, “children” and “the earth”
  • Avoid any debate

Thank you to everyone at NOAA Climate Stewards, Dr. Hiser, and Dr. Kuntz for this important and informative webinar. You can listen to the webinar here. If you have any other strategies or ideas for effective climate change discussion please share below!

Hurricane vs. Cyclone vs. Typhoon

Today is the start of hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean. Lots of times people are curious how these storms are different from, say, a cyclone or typhoon. Well, there isn’t any difference other than where they start. Each storm is a low pressure system that forms in tropical or sub-tropical latitudes. Light winds develop in the troposphere (the area closest to earth) that generally generates winds with a speed to about 75 miles per hour after a trigger such as a convergence against another front.

But, how they get their name depends on where they start. Here is a graphic from Lagoon Inside that helps to clarify.

  • Hurricane: Atlantic Ocean; Caribbean Sea; central and northeast Pacific Ocean
  • Typhoon: Northwest Pacific Ocean
  • Cyclone: Bay of Bengal, Arabia Sea; Southwest India Ocean; Southwestern Pacific; Southeastern India Ocean

Map

 

10 tips for a successful beachcombing trip

Pick up that clump! You never know what you'll find.

Pick up that clump! You never know what you’ll find.

It’s my favorite time of year. This is the best time to explore the beach. It’s still sunny and warm, there are frequent storms (you’ll see why that matters later), and there are few people on the beach. For another six weeks along the mid-Atlantic (before it gets too cold), I encourage you to spend some time getting to know your local shoreline. Here are 10 tips for a successful beachcombing trip.

10. What to bring. Here is a list of some items you may want to remember so you’re prepared for any situation.

  • Often the beach is considerably cooler than inland so bring layers. You may want to wear hiking pants and bring a zippered sweatshirt so you’re equipped with lots of pockets for some other items that might be essential.
  • Make sure to have some appropriate soles. Sure it’s our instinct to be barefoot, however if you want to venture out along the jetties or rocks make sure you have some old sneakers or those water shoes with some decent grip (After all, you don’t want to ruin your adventure with a puncture to some sharp object). Also, the water might be a little cooler than you’d prefer and some good foot cover will allow you to wade into a tide pool.
  • Make sure to have a watch.
  • Even during the off-season the sun is shining and is strong enough to give you a burn. Make sure to bring along a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
  • It’s always a good idea to bring a shovel, grabber sick, or even a metal detector so you can gently investigate inside crevices and below the sand.
  • You are going to want to cherish the moments so find that camera and try to make a neck strap so it’s always handy. You can take pictures of items you find and want to learn about later. You’ll also want to catalog those smiles in the sun.
  • Take along a small (i.e., not heavy) identification book so you can learn more about what you find while on your outing.

9. Be hands free. One more item that you’re going to love me for suggesting is a backpack. This way you can investigate a little bit further from your base and your items are quickly at your disposal.

8. Leave important items behind. Don’t ruin the day by losing a credit card or your phone. If you’re active and in the moment you might lose something and it’s going to be difficult to retrace your steps. I won’t say “I told you so”. On the same note it’s important to leave animals, plants, rocks, and seashells where you find them. If you want to have a little bit of the beach in your home check out these great books by Josie Iselin.

7. When to go. To get the optimum experience for beachcombing you’ll want to check on when low tide is at your beach spot. The best time to go beachcombing is 2-3 hours prior to low tide or an hour or so after (This is why a watch is important, you don’t want to get stuck on  shoal during high tide). Many intertidal animals live under the water in the sand during high tide, but come out to play (and seek out food) during low tide. If you can time it so you get to check out the beach after a big storm you’ll be in for a real treat. The strong wind and wave action of storms will wash up a fossils, bones, seaweed, and lot of other interesting treasures from the ocean floor. Also, keep in mind that dawn and dusk are difficult times to identify beach treasures. Although this is a great time to spot birds as many fish tend to come up to the surface at these times.

6. Where to go. My favorite spot to beachcomb is the Stone Harbor Point in NJ, but it’s not always easy for me to get there these days. I like to remind myself from time to time that I don’t need an ocean to beachcomb. There is a lake and creek in my neighborhood and these spots are a great place to spend the afternoon. After all, these waterways eventually lead to the ocean.  No matter where I decide to spend some time beachcombing I always make sure to note the general water quality.

5. Be careful. This is just a reminder to not tamper with obviously dangerous items. Fish hooks, metal canisters, and needles often wash up on the beach. While I am going to also suggest doing your part and picking up marine debris it’s also a good idea to err on the side of caution and when poking around. Also, some rocks look very steady but it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. If you are feeling like having an adventurous day it’s might be a good idea to make sure you have someone else with you. One last thing about being careful,even though the dunes might look like an interesting place to check out – it’s important to know that those grasses are incredibly brittle and can crack easily. It’s also against the law to walk on the dunes. The dunes are an important part of the beach ecosystem as they protect our homes from storm surge.

4. Leave it be. Each rock that you turn over is part of an ecosystem. A rock might be an essential part of an animal’s home as it helps pool water during high tide. Rocks also protect them from predator as well as the sun. It’s important to always remember to not take animals out of their natural setting – especially if you see them in a tide pool. Many animals are naturally attached to rocks for survival and you could be risking their survival.

3. Play. You might not want to go home, but you also might be in the company of some people that just don’t have a very long attention span. Even more frustrating is repeating the phrase, “No, you cannot go in the water today” over and over again. Build a sandcastle. Look to the horizon for dolphins or porpoises. Make a sand angel. Look up to the sky for cloud animals. Check out my ebook for other beachcombing adventures.

2. Bag it and track it. It’s always nice to be prepared to be able to do your part. I prefer to take along a hefty canvas bag that can fit in a backpack so I can tote marine debris back to a garbage can. You might even try to acquire one of these nifty bags with holes for sand to percolate through from the Green Bag Lady. When you head back to the car you can even do some citizen science and log your marine debris on the Marine Debris Tracker.

1. Don’t expect too much. It’s important to remember to relax and respect the area you are exploring. All of the ideas above are simply suggestions and ideas to ensure you get the most out of  a beachcombing adventure. Please don’t hesitate to share your favorite stories, spots, and other ideas for a great day. You can comment below of email me at info@beachchairscientist.com.

New ‘marine life encyclopedia’ launched

I think there might be another great bookmark to add to your ocean facts files! Please spend some time reviewing this great new resource, a marine life encyclopedia, compiled by Oceana. Over 500 creatures, places, and concepts can be explored. The pictures are bright and colorful and the information is up-to-date and easy to digest. It seems fantastic if you want a quick answer to a question.

Even if you think you know all the answers, test yourself with this Ocean IQ quiz!

The content on the marine life encyclopedia site has been licensed to Dorling Kindersley, one of the world’s leading educational publishers.

The story of the hurricane …

Bob Dylan explained it once, but I’ll explain the natural phenomenon from another angled. A hurricane develops due to the hot, hot air temperatures of summer moving along the hot, hot ocean. This collision of heat joins forces to form a mass of air and water that starts swirling, blowing, sinking, and rising in a path that you see on the weatherman tracking device.

You probably begin paying attention to the tracking system when a hurricane begins to move close to the shore. A hurricane close to shore will undoubtedly cause massive storm surges. A storm surge is when the ocean may increase its high tides above what it normally may be. It is not uncommon to have a storm surge of 25 feet (about 6 kids standing on top of each others shoulders)!

The wind speed of the hurricane can get up to 150-200 miles per hour! Even once the winds slow down to next-to-nothing, it is important to remember that they are going to start back up again – but, go in the opposite direction. The respite you experienced was the ‘eye’ of the storm. A hurricane is a big doughnut of wind and water constantly cycling around destroying everything in its path. It can be up to 300 miles across.

Image (c) environment.nationalgeographic.com

Do you have another great question? Email info@beachchairscientist.com.