Killer plankton, hard drought, being bipolar

A collection of new scientific findings being presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2007 meeting in San Francisco could be headed, "Don't be afraid, be aware."

A University of Victoria scientist is tracking back through fossil history, tracing the ups and downs of dinoflagellates. These small creatures in the Pacific Ocean's plankton are at the base of the maritime food chain. Two dino-species are poisonous, and research may help predict when these species will rapidly increase as the climate changes, thus killing fish and other plankton-feeding animals.

Oregon State scientists, meanwhile, are suggesting that water-management experts begin to use science, not just laws and economics. They say drought will become more prevalent across the more arid western United States. Less snowpack means earlier run-off and less late-summer water. Their message: plan for climate change-induced summer drought.

There are two relevant studies on politics and climate change. One finds most Americans believe in climate change but don't see it as anything close to home, nor urgent. A parallel study concludes more information on climate change will not necessarily spur problem solving. One finding: "Communication campaigns that focus on fear or guilt, especially without empowering or practical options, can backfire."

The recent international report on climate change indicated that the Arctic is expected to lose much of its ice, while there may be a very different effect on the Antarctic. Well, in two weeks, international research teams will launch the International Polar Year. The goal will be to get better data and clearer predictions of the future for our bipolar Earth.

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