Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations

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The USA National Phenology Network: Taking the Pulse of our Planet


Climate change affects all life.

“Phenology is nature’s calendar. It’s the study of plant and animal life cycle events.”

By Linn Smith
June 14, 2018—–I learned about Phenology when visiting Biosphere 2 several months ago. Upon entering I asked the question, “But where is Biosphere 1?” “It’s our Planet Earth!” our guide answered. (I knew little before entering!) On the grounds of Biosphere 2 is the Biosphere Village Phenology garden.

Climate Change

Birds depend on insects to feed their young.

What is Phenology?

Phenology is nature’s calendar. It’s the study of plant and animal life cycle events, such as leafing and flowering of plants, emergence of insects, and bird migration. Many of these events are sensitive to climate change. Birds build their nest to coincide with insects coming to life after a long winter. The insects are the necessary food for the baby birds and, as the climate warms and winters shorten, this nesting time period will change.


What is it?

Monitoring animal and plant life, or Phenology, can help scientists predict which populations are in danger of extinction. It can also help manage invasive species, help predict human health problems, such as allergies, and predict optimum times to plant and harvest crops.

The Biosphere Phenology Garden

“The garden at the Biosphere is part of a nationwide effort to help scientists track impacts of climatic variation and change on the natural world. We are monitoring the timing and occurrence of seasonal events of this garden and reporting the observations to USA-NPN’s national data base.” (USA National Phenology Network)


It helps us understand our changing environment.

How You Can Help!

And this is how you can get involved! Citizen Scientists were developed so all can participate in monitoring nature and recording the data. The USA National Phenology Network brings together citizens, government agencies, educators, students and nonprofit organizations to monitor the impacts of climatic variation and change on plants and animals across the U.S. The network harnesses the power of people and the Internet to share information and provide data to researchers.

USA-NPN invites anyone interested to volunteer as an observer so that they can better understand environmental trends and adaptation to climate change. Your own yard can serve as a phenology garden where you observe plants and report your findings. You can track the phenology of plants and animals through Nature’s Notebook, which is an online monitoring system, contributing to a national database that can be used by scientists and resource managers.


It can help us understand why nature is changing.

Citizen Scientists at Work

“Cathie Bird finds being outdoors healing and inspiring. She goes outside nearly every day to see what other species are up to, and after she heard about Nature’s Notebook, she decided to record what she observes for the benefit of science. She feels “being an observer has connected me even more deeply with life in my neighborhood” and has “enriched my lifelong commitment to cultivate a deeper relationship with Earth.

Chris Nielsen started using Nature’s Notebook to observe native plants in the Northwest several years ago. Chris not only monitors plants at his home, but also at the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline, WA. What does Chris recommend for getting started with Nature’s Notebook? Don’t take on too many plants! Start out with just a few then take on more as you get comfortable with the program.”

Now is the time to step up to the plate and help out…..the time was actually yesterday, but as the old saying goes, better late than never! Find out more information at:

Phenology, You can help!

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Climate Change is Adding to the Sixth Mass Extinction

Species extinction

Extinction of species is happening at an accelerated rate.

More than 90% of the threatened species are due to climate change, habitat loss, hunting, and the introduction of exotic species.

June 26, 2015–Scientific studies indicate Planet Earth was formed some 4.6 billion years ago. Most of us have difficulty comprehending that length of time. For some time after our planet was created there was no life in existence as we know it today. Primitive life developed 3 ½ to 4 billion years ago because of ideal conditions.

Mass Extinctions

Once life appeared, the number of species generally increased. At the same time the overall number was increasing, individual species disappeared (became extinct). Thus extinction is a natural process that has been taking place over time. When a majority of existing species disappear in a relatively short time it, is referred to as mass extinction. A mass extinction is defined by a loss of a least 75% of existing species within a relatively short period of time–as measured by geologic time.

Extinction of species

As human population accelerates, so does extinction of species.

Climate and Mass Extinction

Climate change was responsible for the first mass extinction. It occurred when oxygen replaced carbon dioxide as the primary gas in the atmosphere. Organisms that had developed in a carbon rich atmosphere had to adapt to the change or die. Most organisms succumbed to the change. It took place approximately 1.5 billion years ago. A number of other such extremes took place over geologic time. The last was about 65 million years ago, known as the K-T boundary. It was thought to have been caused by the impact of a large object from space, which lead to the demise of the dinosaur.

There have been several periods of extinction in recent times. One was at the end of the Pleistocene glaciation, when many large animals disappeared in a relatively short time. There is some debate as to whether it was due to the sudden environmental warming, or if human hunting was a main factor. A spurt of extinctions also occurred with the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago. Extinctions increased even faster with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, about 200 years ago, and are accelerating today.

Human Activity and Extinction

The current high rate of species extinction is due primarily to human activity. More than 90% of the threatened species are due to climate change, habitat loss, hunting, and the introduction of exotic species.

At the present time, species of plants and animals of all types are being eliminated at a rapid rate. The natural rate of species extinction prior to human intervention was one in five species per year. The actual rate of species extinction now is not known for certain. Scientific estimates range from 100 to 1000 times the rate prior to the agricultural revolution. In actual numbers determined by statistical theory, there may be an annual loss of species of at least 100,000 species each year. The large number of extinctions includes amphibians, arthropods, birds, mammals, and reptiles. Thousands of species probably became extinct even before they were described. This modern extinction is known as the Sixth Mass Extinction or the Holocene Extinction. The Holocene is defined as that period of known history that goes back to the beginning of agriculture some 10,000 years ago.

Species that are becoming extinct

Many species of life are accelerating towards extinction–except human.

Amphibians and Invertabrates

No one actually knows how many species are in danger of becoming extinct in the future. Plants and animals of all types are in danger of being eliminated. It is estimated that approximately 2/3 of all plants evaluated are in danger of extinction. For species of animals evaluated by the IUCN, the highest rate of endangered species appears among amphibians and invertebrates with a projected loss near 30%. Among fish, mammals, and reptiles about 20% are endangered.

Climate Change and Extinction

Global warming and climate change contribute to the loss of many of the species already extinct and those that are in danger. The warming of the planet endangers plants and animals on land and in the sea. Two examples serve as illustrations. Cloud forests exist in mountain regions in many parts of the world. These are forests that exist high enough in the mountains so as to be immersed in clouds much of the time. In some areas they are being restricted to higher and higher elevations or are disappearing altogether.

One such cloud forest is the Monteverde Forest in Costa Rica. In the world ocean many coral reefs are in danger, as species associated with reefs are dying due to warmer water. The end result is coral bleaching, the dying of the many species of organisms that lived there in the past. The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is an example of a reef which is undergoing bleaching.

Forecasts are based on current as well as past data and projected into the future. There are forecasts which provide an idea of the extent of the problem of the disappearing species. Based on the use of different data and different forecasting methods, the results differ. There are forecasts that thirty to fifty percent of all of species known to exist during historic times may be permanently lost to extinction by 2050. More conservative forecasts suggest that a loss of half the spices will not take place before the year 2100.

It needs to be stated that the current crisis of life on Earth does not yet qualify as a mass extinction. However, at the rate extinctions are occurring, it could classify as mass extinction within a century or two. What is clear is that the rate of extinction is increasing and will continue to increase unless action is taken soon. As a major contributor to extinction, reducing the rate of climate change is essential to saving Earth’s biodiversity. It must be done now!

Reducing the rate of climate change is essential to saving Earth’s biodiversity

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Dengue Fever

Dengue distribution in 2006. Red : Epidemic de...

Dengue distribution in 2006. Red : Epidemic dengue and Ae. aegypti Aqua : Just Ae. aegypti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By John J. Hidore
September 14, 2013–Global warming and climate change are having a significant affect on human health in a variety of ways. Changes in temperature and rainfall affect the life cycles of disease carrying insects such as mosquitoes and ticks. As the planet warms it also increases the range and frequency of tropical diseases. Tropical diseases have become more prevalent in their traditional zones and have broken out in areas where they were unknown previously. Diseases that have increased in frequency or severity include malaria, cholera, yellow fever, the plague, dengue fever, meningococcal meningitis, influenza, diarrhea disease, Hantavirus, West Nile encephalitis virus, and chikungunya. Rising temperatures may lead to increased frequency of some of these diseases n the United States
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that is found throughout the tropics and sub-tropics. It is a viral infection carried by day biting mosquitoes. The symptoms are excruciating pain in the bones, fever, muscle aches, and rash. Most cases are not serious, and only last a few weeks. A more severe form known as severe dengue (dengue hemorrhagic fever) has similar symptoms but also causes internal bleeding and bleeding through the nose and gums. This form of the disease can lead to shock and death. The world health organization reported that this fever is now the fastest spreading vector-borne virus on Earth. There have been 50 to 100 million new cases reported each year in the last decade. The range in which it occurs is expanding horizontally and is increasing its range upward in mountain areas as warm temperatures move to higher altitudes. Most cases are found in urban areas. Mosquitoes that carry the fever are increasing in numbers in urban areas where stagnant pools of water form in unused containers and puddles. There currently exist no vaccines or medications specifically for the disease.
There is currently a worldwide pandemic and it is most common in India, Viet Nam and the Caribbean. It appeared in South America in the last decade of the 20th century and it existed on the Pacific side of Costa Rica for some time. There were epidemics there in 1993 and 1994. In 1995 unusually warm weather allowed the mosquitoes to cross the mountains into the rest of the country. Outbreaks of the disease occurred in other areas of South America also. Thousands died of the epidemic and nearly 150,000 were infected.
In the fall of 2007, dengue fever spread across the Caribbean in one of the worst outbreaks in decades. Health agencies declared the disease was at near record levels in 2007. It affected hundreds of thousands of individuals and killed more than 200. Puerto Rico reported some 5000 cases in 2012.
An epidemic of the fever ravaged Charleston, S.C as early as 1828. The fever was endemic in the south of the United States prior to World War II. Following the war a nationwide program to eliminate flies and mosquitoes was begun. This attempt included ridding the country of malaria. The program largely eliminated dengue fever in this country. However, cases are now diagnosed in the United States nearly every year in persons that have traveled to regions where the disease is endemic. The Center for Disease Control reported that 1167 of these cases were reported between 1996 and 2005. There were 25 cases reported in Brownsville, Texas in 2005. Blood tests were conducted by the CDC on residents of Brownsville. Thirty-eight percent showed signs of past dengue infection. Eleven percent of these had not been outside the country and so had to be infected in the local area. Two and one-half percent of those tested showed signs of recent infection.
In 2009 the first case in 40 years was reported in Florida. In 2010 an outbreak occurred that reported 63 cases among people that had not traveled in tropical regions. A strain of the Aedes mosquito had established itself in Key West. The last case there was reported in November of that year. This summer the fever appeared in Martin County Florida. As of August 27, 2013 four cases had been confirmed
Chikungunya (Chicken Guinea) is a disease similar in symptoms to dengue fever. The disease is a relatively new mosquito borne viral fever. The symptoms are sudden high fever reaching 39ºC (102ºF), a variety of skin rashes and other skin irregularities, arthritis of the joints, and headache. Severe joint pain may last for weeks or months. In the recent epidemic in India, high fever and joint pain were the most common symptoms. Fever normally lasts about 48 hours before breaking. The mosquitoes carrying the virus are found in the United States, especially in the South. The Center for Disease Control reported that cases have developed in the United States in persons who have traveled to the areas where outbreaks were occurring. An unknown number of Canadian and Europeans have also contracted the disease. None are known to have developed in individuals that have not traveled to regions where the disease is endemic.
Several factors have led to the increased numbers of persons contracting these diseases. The higher temperatures associated with global warming increases mosquito activity, the human population is increasing in the areas where the mosquitoes are found, and more people traveling into and out of the affected areas.

World Health Organization
Center for Disease Control