Featured image: A rugged climb up the hills of the Taklamakan Desert, which consumes much of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. (courtesy Zahariz Khuzaimah)
This week we host Jane Baldwin, PhD candidate in Princeton’s Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Dept., who studies the reasons that deserts exist in Asia. Jane first wondered about the changing climate of the steppes of Inner Mongolia, where famous grasslands have slowly morphed to low, dry shrubs. Surprisingly, she found a more fundamental question that needed study first: why do Asian deserts, like the Taklamakan and Gobi, exist in general? Global climate simulations give researchers a crucial tool to study WHY the climate works as it does, so Jane tested various hypotheses about the Taklamakan: does it still exist if you run a simulation without Tibet? Without Europe taking moisture from Asia’s westerly winds? Without the Tian Shan mountains, which lie between the Taklamakan and the Gobi? Tune in for surprising results that hint how important well-placed mountains can be for the climate.
In other news:
- A fungus species uses a gravitationally sensitive crystal to tell which way is up—but evidently it inherited this trait from bacteria who use the crystals for other purposes.
- The Milky Way and other galaxies may have more than one supermassive black hole: others may wander aimlessly, left over after their birth galaxy collided with ours.
- Whales can hear extremely low sounds by using their skulls as antennae, shown by scientists simulating reverberations in their ear bones and heads.
The playlist can be found on WPRB.com or below.