How well do we understand rising sea levels?

An ice-choked fjord in Greenland. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA’s Vital Signs of the Planet feature,  Keeping score on Earth’s rising seas by Pat Brennan (9/1918) summarizes a recent paper that  “ ‘closes’ the sea-level budget to within 0.3 millimeters of sea-level rise per year since 1993.”

A just-published paper assembles virtually all the puzzle pieces – melting ice, warming and expanding waters, sinking coastlines and a stew of other factors – to arrive at a picture of remarkable precision. Since 1993, global sea level has been rising by an average 3.1 millimeters per year, with the rise accelerating by 0.1 millimeter per year, according to the study published Aug. 28 in the journal, “Earth System Science Data.”

“Global mean sea level is not rising linearly, as has been thought before,” said lead author Anny Cazenave of France’s Laboratory for Studies in Geophysics and Oceanography (LEGOS). “We now know it is clearly accelerating.”

The above paragraphs can be used as calculus in the news and sea level data is available from NASA’s Sea Level page.

How much have child and adolescent mortality rates changed?

The World Bank report, New child and adolescent mortality estimates show remarkable progress, but 17,000 children under 15 still died every day in 2017, by Emi Suzuki and co-author Haruna Kashiwase ( 9/18/18) provides a summary, as well as a number of charts. The good news:

There has been remarkable progress in reducing mortality among children and young adolescents in the past several decades. Between 1990 and 2017, the global under-five mortality rate dropped by 58 percent from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births to 39 deaths per 1,000 live births. During the last 17 years, the reduction in under-five mortality rates accelerated to an average 4% annual reduction, compared to an average 1.9% annual reduction between 1990 and 2000. For children aged 5-14, mortality dropped by 53 percent, from 15 deaths to 7 deaths per 1,000 children.

At the same time there is work to be done:

However, while a substantial reduction from the 14.3 million in 1990, an estimated 6.3 million children under age 15 still died in 2017, mostly from preventable causes.

The charts on the page are interactive but can’t be downloaded. On the other hand, the data is easily available and charts can be made for download. The chart here was made at the World Bank’s DataBank.  Note that the European Union has a lower under 5 mortality rate than the U.S. There are numerous variables to choose. Data can be downloaded and charts for download can be highly customized.

How much have fall temperatures risen?

According to the Climate Central post, Fall Warming Trends Across the U.S. (9/5/18), the average fall temperature for the U.S. has risen nearly 3°F since 1970 (see their graph copied here).  Why does this matter:

Insects linger longer into the fall when the first freeze of the season comes later in the year. A new study from the Universities of Washington and Colorado indicates that for every degree (Celsius) of warming, global yields of corn, rice, and wheat would decline 10 to 25 percent from the increase in insects. Those losses are expected to be worst in North America and Europe.

The article has a drop down menu to select cities across the U.S. to see a graph similar to the one copied here for the selected city.  They don’t post the data that was used to create the graphs but they do explain their data sources under methodology.

A statistics project could have students create this graph for their hometown.  One way to obtain the data was noted in our post, What do we know about nighttime minimum temperatures?: Go to  NOAA’s Local Climatological Data Map. Click on the wrench under Layers. Use the rectangle tool to select your local weather station. Check off the station and Add to Cart. Follow the direction from their being sure to select csv file. You will get an email link for the data within a day.  Note: You are limited in the size of the data to ten year periods. You will need to do this more than once to get the full data set available for your station.

 

 

How does climate change impact the spin axis of the planet?

Source: NASA

NASA’s Vital Signs of the planet post, Scientists ID three causes of Earth’s spin axis drift (9/19/18) explains changes in the spin axis.

Earth is not a perfect sphere. When it rotates on its spin axis — an imaginary line that passes through the North and South Poles — it drifts and wobbles. These spin-axis movements are scientifically referred to as “polar motion.” Measurements for the 20th century show that the spin axis drifted about 4 inches (10 centimeters) per year. Over the course of a century, that becomes more than 11 yards (10 meters).

In general, the redistribution of mass on and within Earth — like changes to land, ice sheets, oceans and mantle flow — affects the planet’s rotation. As temperatures increased throughout the 20th century, Greenland’s ice mass decreased. In fact, a total of about 7,500 gigatons — the weight of more than 20 million Empire State Buildings — of Greenland’s ice melted into the ocean during this time period. This makes Greenland one of the top contributors of mass being transferred to the oceans, causing sea level to rise and, consequently, a drift in Earth’s spin axis.

The article explains why the Greenland Ice sheet has such an impact. NASA has also produced an interactive simulation on how different processes contribute to the wobble. There could be a nice vector calculus, linear algebra, or geometry exercises here.

How have wages grown since 1980?

Source: EPI

Wage growth has varied depending on numerous factors such as gender, race, income level, and education. The EPI article,  America’s slow-motion wage crisis-Four decades of slow and unequal growth by John Schmitt, Elise Gould, and Josh Bivens (9/13/18) summarizes the findings with 30 graphs or tables (data included). For example, the cumulative percent change in inflation-adjusted hourly wages for workers in the 10th, 50th, and 90th percentile is given in the graph here (downloaded from the article).

The first key trend since 1979 is the historically slow growth in real wages. In 2017, middle-wage workers earned just 16.8 percent more than their counterparts almost four decades earlier. This corresponds to an annualized inflation-adjusted growth rate over the 38-year period of just 0.4 percent per year. The real wage increase for low-wage workers (those at the 10th percentile) was even slower: 8.9 percent over 38 years, or a 0.2 percent annualized growth rate.

This slow growth is particularly disappointing for two reasons. First, as we will see in the next section, U.S. workers today are generally older (and hence potentially more experienced) and substantially better educated than workers were at the end of the 1970s.10 Second, for workers at the bottom and the middle, most of the increase in real wages over the entire period took place in the short window between 1996 and the early 2000s. For the large majority of workers over the last four decades, wages were essentially flat or falling apart from a few short bursts of growth.

Quiz Questions: What was the cumulative change in hourly wages from 1979 to 2017 for

  1. What was the cumulative change in hourly wages from 1979 to 2017 for workers with an advanced degree?
  2. What was the cumulative change in hourly wages from 1979 to 2017 for workers with less than a high school diploma?
  3. Which ethnic group had the greatest change?
  4. What was the cumulative change in hourly wages from 1979 to 2017 for Women in the 50th percentile?
  5. What was the cumulative change in hourly wages from 1979 to 2017 for Men in the 50th percentile?

The article and/or corresponding data is ready for use in a stats or QL course in the 90th percentile.

Answers: (1) 30.0% (2) -9.6% (3) Asian American/Pacific Islander non-Hispanic 23.3% (4) 33.8% (5) 8.1%.

How much do countries spend on education?

The answer to the question depends on how it is measured.  The post  in statista, The Countries Spending the Most on Education by Martin Armstrong (9/12/2018) reports spending as a share of gross domestic product for primary, second and post-secondary non-tertiary education as well as tertiary education.  By this measure Norway spends the most. But, if the measure used is expenditure per student as a share of GDP per capita, the high spender is (south) Korea (Norway is fifth). Our graph here is a scatter plot of the two measures by country.

The data is from OECD.Stat. Go to Education and Training, Education at a Glance, Financial resources invested in education, Education finance indicators, and finally Expenditure per student as share of GDP per capita.  Under indicator at the top of the spreadsheet the measure can be changed.  Definitions of measures can be found in the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics (page 99).

Download the csv file and R-script used here.

How are blocking high, climate change, & hurricane Florence related?

Credit: Weather.com via Think Progress

The Think Progress article, Global warming ‘double whammy’ may be steering Florence into the Carolinas, says researcher by Joe Romm (9/12/2018) makes the connection.

The path of Florence has been extremely unusual. As Philip Klotzbach, an Atlantic hurricane expert, tweeted on Friday, “33 named storms (since 1851) have been within 100 miles of Florence’s current position. None of these storms made US landfall. The closest approach was Hurricane George (1950) — the highlighted track [in white].”

Florence, tragically, has made a beeline toward the Carolinas. And it clearly was steered away from the historical (or “climatological”) path by a major high-pressure system blocking its typical path — north and away from land.

Back in 2016 Francis published a study on the link between blocking highs and global warming. At the time, she told ThinkProgress: “Our new study does indeed add to the growing pile of evidence that amplified Arctic warming and sea-ice loss favor the formation of blocking high pressure features in the North Atlantic. These blocks can cause all sorts of trouble…”

There are more details in the well cited article. Sustainabilitymath posted about hurricanes last year, Are We Seeing More Hurricanes in the North Atlantic?, which inlcudes a link to hurricane data.

What do we know about plastics?

The Our World in Data article Plastic Pollution by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (Sept 2018) is a detailed summary of plastics with 20 charts.  For example, one of the charts is a time series of plastic production (downloaded and posted here) showing that, in 2015, the world produced 381 million tons of plastic. In the same year, only 20% of the plastic was recycled (second chart in the article).  There is information on plastic waste generation.

Packaging, for example, has a very short ‘in-use’ lifetime (typically around 6 months or less). This is in contrast to building and construction, where plastic use has a mean lifetime of 35 years.7 Packaging is therefore the dominant generator of plastic waste, responsible for almost half of the global total.

Who produces the most plastic waste?

… we see the per capita rate of plastic waste generation, measured in kilograms per person per day. Here we see differences of around an order of magnitude: daily per capita plastic waste across the highest countries – Kuwait, Guyana, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, the United States – is more than ten times higher than across many countries such as India, Tanzania, Mozambique and Bangladesh.

As always with Our World in Data, the data associated with each graph is downloadable.

How many 90+ degree days will your hometown have in the future?

The New York Times interactive article How Much Hotter Is Your Hometown Than When You Were Born? By Nadja Popovich, Blacki Migliozzi, Rumsey Taylor, Josh Williams and Derek Watkins, allows the reader to input a birth year and hometown and provides a graph with historical 90+ degree days and predictions for the future. For example a person born in 1970 in NYC would get the graph copied here.  In 1970 the expectation was six 90+ degree days, today it is 11, and by 2050 it will be 24 with a likely range of 15 to 30.

THE NEW YORK AREA is likely to feel this extra heat even if countries take action to lower their emissions by the end of the century, according to an analysis conducted for The New York Times by the Climate Impact Lab, a group of climate scientists, economists and data analysts from the Rhodium Group, the University of Chicago, Rutgers University and the University of California, Berkeley. If countries continue emitting at historically high rates, the future could look even hotter.

The future projection shown here assumes countries will curb greenhouse gas emissions roughly in line with the world’s original Paris Agreement pledges (although most countries do not appear on track to meet those pledges).

There are related human health impacts:

Worldwide, high temperatures have been found to increase the risk of illness and death, especially among older people, infants and people with chronic medical conditions. Lower-income populations, which more often lack access to air conditioning and other adaptive technologies, are also more likely to suffer the impacts of extreme heat. In America, so are people of color.

The article has other graphs and quantitative information which can be used in  QL based course.

How distracting are cell phones?

The extensive article by Pew Research, How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions by Jingjing Jiang (8/22/18), presents detailed data on cell phone use.  For example,

And 51% of teens say they often or sometimes find their parent or caregiver to be distracted by their own cellphone when they are trying to have a conversation with them.

As they look at their own lives and those of their peers, most teens see things that worry them. Roughly nine-in-ten teens view spending too much time online as a problem facing people their age, including 60% who say it is a major problem.

The article has eight charts, one of which is reposted here.  There is a complete methodology section, which is perfect for a stats class, with enough information to use the data for statistical tests.