Scientific research gets better…always a good time to review older work


Gulf Stream imaged from space

The major currents in the Atlantic Ocean help control the climate by moving warm surface waters north and south from the equator, with colder deep water pushing back toward the equator from the poles. The presence of that warm surface water plays a key role in moderating the climate in the North Atlantic, giving places like the UK a far more moderate climate than its location—the equivalent of northern Ontario—would otherwise dictate.

But the temperature differences that drive that flow are expected to fade as our climate continues to warm. A bit over a decade ago, measurements of the currents seemed to be indicating that temperatures were dropping, suggesting that we might be seeing these predictions come to pass. But a few years later, it became clear that there was just too much year-to-year variation for us to tell.

Over time, however, researchers have figured out ways of getting indirect measures of the currents, using material that is influenced by the strengths of the water’s flow. These measures have now let us look back on the current’s behavior over the past several centuries. And the results confirm that the strength of the currents has dropped dramatically over the last century.

Solid scientific methods always require revisiting prior work when advances in analysis provide more accurate understanding. Bravo!

2023, this critter starts delivering to our rural mailbox

The new van, manufactured by Oshkosh Defense, will get a massive overhaul that will provide some significant and desperately needed upgrades for the folks who ensure that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom” prevent your packages and letters from arriving on time. While the polygonal-like build and massive front windshield of the new truck have some wondering if the USPS stole Homer Simpon’s car idea or perhaps tapped Pixar to do the design, it’s what’s on the inside that is most interesting. Sure, there are high-tech advances like the inclusion of 360-degree cameras and front- and rear-collision avoidance, but postal workers will welcome one feature in particular: climate control.

…Uncle Sam is hoping to squeeze a long life out of these new vehicles, too, equipping them with both gasoline and electric drivetrains to ensure they are prepared to transition to a fossil fuel-free future. It seems likely that the government will lean heavily into the electric option, as the vehicles won’t hit the road until 2023 and President Biden recently expressed his interest in converting the entirety of the government’s fleet of vehicles over to electric. That would have to include the USPS, which makes up about one-third of the government’s fleet.

Overdue…