Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Science

These will likely be pretty quick posts in general, more notes on something cool I've read that might spark a story idea or add fullness to world building.

Here's one that I already kind of knew from my own research, but in canonized form. According to the 2013 IPCC summary, the water cycle has changed noticeably in roughly the ways we expect. I'm linking to this post that quotes the relevant section rather than the entire document, but if you want to see the whole thing, it's linked too. Anyway, in a nutshell, what the summary of the summary says is that snow and ice cover has decreased and the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events has increased thanks to anthropogenic warming. Also, the amount of the Earth's surface that is subject to the monsoon has increased.

Obviously not all bad--more summertime rain for the regions with monsoons is probably a good thing, especially since those tend to be the regions that depend on snow pack or glacial melting. Not all good, though, since snow pack is an important water source for many semi-arid regions, meaning droughts are likely to become more severe.

Why I like this for science fiction: there are plenty of stories where weather plays a role in setting the tone. Not that I have numbers, but tone or mood is probably the most frequent use for weather period. That makes sense, since most of the time weather is backdrop to the action of life. There are a few where storms or droughts are significant parts of the plot, but not often in science fiction or fantasy. Kim Stanley Robinson incorporates extreme weather into the "40 Days of Rain" series (which is specifically about global warming) and Brandon Sanderson includes highstorms (which are magical in nature, so probably don't really belong here, but I like the usage) in "The Way of Kings." Mostly they are plot devices, a way to throw in some man vs. nature action. This is mostly to say that such man vs. nature is likely to become more prominent in our future.

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