July 26, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Pests moving North, Phosphorus levels no barrier to early life on Mars and Pacific Ocean is temporarily cooling the Earth's surface ...

The mountain pine beetle is one of many pests and pathogens migrating North


Pacific Ocean is cause of air warming slowdown

The recent pause in surface air warming could be due to cooler temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, a study published in Nature has revealed.

Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego used an advanced climate model to investigate why mean global temperatures have not risen in the 21st century, despite the continuing increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Their results showed that short-term, natural changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures have an important effect on surface air temperatures worldwide, but they warned that these changes will not reverse the longer-term influence of rising CO2 emissions on increasing global temperatures.


Crop pests move North

Hundreds of pests and pathogens that attack crops have migrated northwards over the past half century in response to warming temperatures.

Pests and pathogens perennially reduce crop yields by 10-16% and their widespread migration may increase this figure. Researchers from the universities of Exeter and Oxford found that, although the spread could have been caused partly by natural ecological changes and by human transportation, climate change is also a factor.

The teams compiled thousands of observations of over 600 types of crop pests and diseases worldwide, and found significant increases at higher latitudes since 1960. They concluded climate change is likely to continue the global spread of crop pests and diseases, and suggested governments put more effort into monitoring the situation for the sake of global food security. 


Phosphorus level no barrier to early life on Mars

The surface of Mars may have been more suitable to the emergence of life in the early solar system than the surface of the Earth.

Christopher Adcock and his team from the University of Las Vegas investigated the availability of phosphate in Martian rocks by carrying out laboratory analyses on Martian meteorites, and found that phosphorus locked up in Martian minerals would have been more easily released by interactions with water than phosphorus in rocks on Earth.

Phosphate is thought to have been a key component in the chemical reactions that led to the emergence of life on Earth. The easy release of Martian phosphorus would have led to twice as much phosphate available in water-rich environments on Mars so the early phosphate problem, which characterises the emergence of life on Earth, would have been much less significant. 


IMAGE: SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations, Flickr