Toasty Florida temps on the way despite weak cold fronts; scientists unveil big plans for Mars

Florida temps

A trio of very weak cold fronts are expected to push into the Florida peninsula this week, but they won’t do much to knock down temperatures that are running slightly above average from Central Florida down to the Keys. The fronts are forecast to stall out just north of Lake Okeechobee and they could trigger a few showers over the southern half of the peninsula from mid-week through the weekend. But temperatures in the low 80s remain in the forecast. (Credit: NWS-Tampa)

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HOT TOPIC: Yes, it can get too hot to support life in the tropics and subtropics, a team of researchers from Purdue University have concluded.

A warming planet — the kind of warming that took place 60 million years ago, at least — was thought to be self-limiting, allowing species to adjust to the heat. That theory of an Earth “internal thermostat” turns out to be untrue, they said.

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum period, which occurred 56 million years ago, is the warmest period of the last 100 million years, according to scientists. Global temperatures jumped by 9 degrees Fahrenheit while the tropics and subtropics warmed by 5 degrees

The increase was particularly dramatic because temperatures prior to the period were already at warm levels.

“The records produced in this study indicate that when the tropics warmed that last little bit, a threshold was passed and parts of the tropical biosphere seems to have died,” said study author Matthew Huber, a professor in the Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Department at Purdue.

“This is the first time that we’ve found really good information, in a very detailed way, where we saw major changes in the tropics directly associated with warming past a key threshold in the past 60 million years.”

The theory has particular relevance since the tropics and subtropics comprise half of the earth’s surface area and more than half of the Earth’s biodiversity. Today, those areas are also home to more than half of the world’s human population.

Humans of course are an adaptable lot and modern technology can make places livable that ordinarily would not be. But, said Huber: “If you say there’s no tropical thermostat, then half of the world’s biodiversity — over half of the world’s population, the tropical rainforests, the reefs, India, Brazil — these populous and very important countries have nothing to prevent them from warming up substantially above conditions that humans have been used to.”

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600px-TerraformedMarsGlobeRealistic

Artist’s conception of a terraformed Mars. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

RED PLANET REDO: It’s a little early to book your travel tickets, but NASA scientists say they’ve come up with a plan to develop an atmosphere on Mars. The proposal could create more accommodating environmental conditions on the planet as early as the 2040s.

The idea, unveiled at the recent Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop in Washington, DC, involves employing a magnetic shield to protect Mars from solar winds and allow its atmosphere to regrow.

Currently atmospheric pressure on Mars is about 1 percent of Earth’s at sea level.

But the shield would cause the atmosphere to thicken over time and boost temperatures by up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit, melting the carbon dioxide in the polar ice caps. That would trigger a greenhouse effect, warming the planet further.

“A greatly enhanced Martian atmosphere, in both pressure and temperature, that would be enough to allow significant surface liquid water would also have a number of benefits for science and human exploration in the 2040s and beyond,” said Jim Green – the Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

“Much like Earth, an enhanced atmosphere would allow larger landed mass of equipment to the surface, shield against most cosmic and solar particle radiation, extend the ability for oxygen extraction, and provide ‘open air’ greenhouses to exist for plant production, just to name a few.”

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Key West rainfall record

MARCH MADNESS: Monday was the 30th anniversary of the wettest March day on record in Key West — 5.26 inches drenched the island on March 6, 1987. (Credit: NWS-Key West)

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Author: jnelander

Freelance writer and editor

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