Sunday, January 7, 2018

Science in Fiction (#36): Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Welcome to this month's Science in Fiction feature! Science in Fiction is a meme I created to showcase the wonderful aspects of science in Young Adult fiction novels. For more information and previous feature, check out the "Science in Fiction" tag!

This month, I'm featuring Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner!

As soon as I saw Unearthed, I knew it would be a future Science in Fiction feature. But what would the topic be? I'm excited about how many topics I could have drawn from this book. One thing that stuck out is the condition of Earth that the authors have illustrated - basically it's a disaster, with how badly climate change has affected the planet. Our protagonists are currently on a different planet - Gaia - as are other humans, trying to find artifacts and important items for research (and the black market). But back on Earth, deserts have swept the planet, sandstorms are numerous and deadly, and resources are scarce enough that a one-child policy is implemented everywhere. 

So today, I'm going to talk about the extreme weather events, due to climate change!

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the latest incredible storm - the bomb cyclone that hit the northeast USA? Some people (like the stable genius in D.C.) think that the bomb cyclone is evidence to deny climate change. Stable genius is... not a genius. I'll explain why this assumption is wrong, and why extreme weather events - regardless of temperature - are evidence of climate change.

But first, a little bit of information about the bomb cyclone, since I've brought it up. A "bomb cyclone" is basically a sharp and quick drop in pressure, which makes the storm much more intense. Specifically, air pressure must drop at least 24 millibars in 24 hours (which is really, really fast for that amount of pressure). This latest bomb cyclone was characterized by biting cold, heavy snowfall, thick ice, and really gusty winds. 

This bomb cyclone is no longer a rare or abnormal event. The Northeast region of the USA has seen more snowfall in recent years - especially in heavy storm events. According to NOAA, the frequency of heavy snowstorm events have doubled in the last fifty years. Why is this happening, especially with climate change occurring?

The thing about climate change is that rising surface temperatures affects sea levels, and jet streams, and atmospheric circulation patterns, and all of those things affect weather patterns. In the last half-century, we've seen a rise of extreme weather events. Hot months are even hotter, cold months are even colder, more snow in states that get a lot of snow, more intense heat in places that experience high temperatures. More snowfall isn't evidence of the nonexistence of climate change - it's huge evidence in favor of the existence of climate change. Melting Arctic ice weakens jet streams, which changes the circulation pattern of the jet streams and brings colder air from the poles further south. Hence why states like Florida have seen snow for the first time in decades, in the last week. Check Environmental Defense Fund or National Climate Assessment for some science-y evidence.

National Climate Assessment has this graph of the frequency of extreme precipitation events  in the USA over the last century. The writing is clearly on the wall!

Observed U.S. Trends in Heavy Precipitation
Source: NCA. (NCA has adapted from Kunkel et al. 2013).

NOAA has a really great image of the bomb cyclone storm event that hit the USA on January 4th:

Source: PRI. (Image is from NOAA.)

What other types of weather changes can we expect to see?

- Extreme snow events (in areas that receive snow).
- Extreme rain events.
- Higher "high" temperatures during summer months.
- Record year-end high temperatures and record year-end low temperatures.
- Severe droughts.
- Heat waves.
- Coastal flooding.
- Flash flooding in urban areas.
- Stronger hurricanes (in areas that experience hurricanes).

More extreme weather events are listed HERE.

I've talked about terraforming and other space-related topics in which humans go in search of other planets for survival. I have no doubt that scientists are looking and hoping to discover new forms of life, with one goal being to find somewhere to inhabit in addition to Earth. Our planet has been changing and not for the better. I urge readers to educate yourself on climate change and understand why it is very real and very much something we should all be thinking about.

Let me know what your thoughts are, on climate change and extreme weather events!


  1. I have an environmental engineering degree and love when you have these science posts. I haven't taken the time to learn more about the bomb cyclone yet, and you've helped me out.

  2. It's quite baffling how many say that climate change isn't real when we see the effects of it right now. Like snow in places where they normally don't snow, crazy typhoons coming one after the other, severe weather changes... and so on.

    I love this feature, Alyssa! Also I have always been interested in space exploration and teraforming!

  3. I'm interested in reading this book, and never really paid attention to the science in books before. The weather in recent years has puzzled me. We used to receive a lot of snow each winter; in the past few years, we've almost had zero.

  4. I loooove this post, Alyssa! I just don't get how "some people" can deny climate change. Also gotta say if we had as much snow and cold weather here in Belgium, our country would not be able to function. People already freaked out a few weeks ago when we only had a little snow for 2 days. lol

  5. What a great informative post and I love learning new facts about science and things that effect us. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great post and topic! I still can't fathom how people don't see climate change as being real, it has happened for centuries and will continue to happen.

  7. As always, such an amazing post Alyssa. <3 Thank you for sharing about this sweetie. Climate change is very much real, and all kinds of awful too. I just. Well.. I can't help but wish that the earth will wait to die until I'm dead too :) Though I hope it never happens too.

  8. I love this feature so much, Alyssa! As usual, a very cool read. Climate change deniers really boggle my mind...I just don't get it. But I do think it's cool to see climate change in upcoming YA releases!


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