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Tree rings reveal summer 2023 was the hottest in 2 millennia

Tree rings reveal summer 2023 was the hottest in 2 millennia

A photo taken in May 2024 shows three women shielding themselves from the scorching sun with a cloth in Mumbai, India. (Image credit: SOPA Images / Contributor via Getty Images)

Last year’s summer was the hottest in 2,000 years, ancient tree rings reveal.

Researchers already knew that 2023 was one for the books, with average temperatures soaring past anything recorded since 1850. But there are no measurements stretching further back than that date, and even the available data is patchy, according to a study published Tuesday (May 14) in the journal Nature. So, to determine whether 2023 was an exceptionally hot year relative to the millennia that preceded it, the study authors turned to records kept by nature.

Trees provide a snapshot of past climates, because they are sensitive to changes in rainfall and temperature. This information is crystalized in their growth rings, which grow wider in warm, wet years than they do in cold, dry years. The scientists examined available tree-ring data dating back to the height of the Roman Empire and concluded that 2023 really was a standout, even when accounting for natural variations in climate over time.

“When you look at the long sweep of history, you can see just how dramatic recent global warming is,” co-author Ulf Büntgen, a professor of environmental systems analysis at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., said in a statement. The data indicated that “2023 was an exceptionally hot year, and this trend will continue unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically,” he said.

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Could climate change make humans go extinct?

Could climate change make humans go extinct?

A 3D illustration of a woman watching a climate change simulation of Earth.

A digital illustration of someone watching a climate change simulation. (Image credit: boscorelli/Shutterstock.com)

The impacts of climate change are here with soaring temperatures, stronger hurricanes, intensified floods and a longer and more severe wildfire season. Scientists warn that ignoring climate change will yield “untold suffering” for humanity. But if things are going to get that much worse, could climate change make humans go extinct?

Scientists predict a range of devastating scenarios if climate change is not kept under control, but if we just consider the direct impacts, then there’s some good news; it’s unlikely to cause our mass extinction.

“There is no evidence of climate change scenarios that would render human beings extinct,” Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State and author of “The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet” (PublicAffairs, 2021), told Live Science in an email.

However, it’s possible that climate change will still threaten the lives of hundreds of millions of people, such as by leading to food and water scarcity, which has the potential to trigger a societal collapse and set the stage for global conflict, research finds.

Too hot to handle?

Humans are increasing the amount of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, in the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities. These gases trap and hold heat from the sun, causing global temperatures to rise and the climate to change much faster than it otherwise would, putting humanity on a dangerous path.

A runaway greenhouse effect is probably the only way climate change impacts could directly cause human extinction, according to Luke Kemp, a research associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom…

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Disappearing Lake Shows Drought’s Extent in New Space Image

Disappearing Lake Shows Drought’s Extent in New Space Image


Aerial view of Goose Lake on the border between California and Oregon taken June 25, 2015, NASA Earth Observatory Landsat 8 – OLI.
Credit: Jesse Allen

A lake straddling the California-Oregon border looks like an empty swimming pool in new photos taken from space.

The water levels of Goose Lake and its several neighboring lakes depend on the season’s rain and snow amounts, and California has been in a drought. A camera onboard NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite captured the lake’s current dry spell on June 25, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

The photo of the parched lake is a stark contrast to a photo taken by NASA when the lake was hydrated two years prior, on June 3, 2013.

Goose Lake State Park has a “dry lake” advisory on its website as of May 13: “The Lake is dry and not available for boating or fishing from the park.”

When Goose Lake brims with water, it spans about 145 square miles (375 square kilometers), with a depth of about 24 feet (7 meters). There are eight fish species native to the Goose Lake basin, including the redband trout, suckerfish, tui chub, lamprey, Pit-Klamath brook lamprey, speckled dace, Pit roach, and Pit sculpin.

When the lake is dry, the fish head over to the tributary streams connected to Goose Lake. Redband trout used to be commercially fished, but its populations have not been consistent from year to year.

Most of Goose Lake’s water flows in during the spring and early summer and comes from snowmelt that accumulates in its eastern streams. Goose Lake also receives water from groundwater basins.


Goose Lake overflowed in 1881, but dried up in the summers of 1851, 1852, 1926, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1992.

Dryness in the 1920s shriveled the lake to the point where wagon tracks left by gold miners of the mid-1800s appeared on the exposed lakebed, according to the Earth Observatory.


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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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