Space, Tropical cyclone, North Pole, Earth Climate Change: Gaia's Revenge | Prof Yoav Yair | TEDxIDCHerzliya
It used to be like this when i was a child, and i was always fascinated by lightning. I was looking at the west, those storm clouds dark coming in from the west and then boom lightning. Lightning always fascinated me so when in 1982 i started my education at tel aviv university studying geophysics, i kept my fascination going on lightning and i study lightning from the ground using special cameras from airplanes from the space shuttle and from the international space station. I wish it was like this today, the winter that i used to have when i was a child because, obviously it’s not like this, is it the same way you live. Is this what you feel when you think about winter here in israel, in the middle east, winter got shorter by 12 days and it’s becoming warmer and drier? So definitely our climate is changing, and there are many signs for this change that we can easily observe. Look, for example, at 2020, the hurricane season in the atlantic record breaking huge number of mega storms hitting the u.s east coast and the caribbean forest fires in california, in australia, induced by thunderstorms and by the dryness and droughts record temperature in alaska and in siberia. So what’s going on climate is changing. I can give many more examples, but i want to focus on my favorite one, which is lightning lightning, is so awesome so fearful so energetic and dangerous. It was feared and worshiped by ancient civilizations, taranis thor with the hammer jupiter, of course, ligong chinese mythology.
All those gods were feared and revered in ancient mythology. So when we look at the earth from space, we can see lightning flickering around and actually it’s the electric pulse of our planet 50 pulses per second every second of every day, and we can look at this seasonal cycle of lightning changing from the seasons from the Northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere and lightning actually was the initiation of life. Maybe the ancient spark that ignited the basic chemistry needed for life and lightning is still influencing with its many frequencies, specific ones uh on the or the living beings and maybe even on our electrical brain, so living creatures have accumulated this electrical spark into their own system. This unique relationship between planetary electricity and the biosphere and recently lightning is also out of sync. We can see this very clearly really massive hail storms with giant balls of ice falling from the sky, flash floods in many urban cities. We can see this in the news. Many many times, maybe you’ve, been exposed to this yourself and the damages are piling up. Insurance companies can put numbers on the damages caused by severe weather, which is directly introduced by climate change, and it accounts to millions of dollars. Every year, houses infrastructures, roads, power lines, hurricane sandy alone in 2012, caused 70 billion dollars of damage to the us, and typhoon hyen in the philippines caused 14 billion dollars of damage to that country. So damages are piling up, certainly but also death.
Every year, thousands of people are killed by lightning working outside, mostly in tropical areas. You think it’s a surprise, but maybe because you live in the western world urban society, but in those places, lightning is a killer and we know that lightning damages will be stronger and harder in the future. One of the effects we’re already seeing is urban enhancement of lightning major cities. Large urban built areas which emit heat, moisture and pollution cause lightning to be more frequent above the city and downwind from the city. This is an enhancement of what nature used to give us. Now we get more of those little energetic lightning and we already see in some parts of the world. This weekday weekend effect where you have more lightning during weekdays where pollution is higher compared to the weekend and damages are piling up to cities as well. You can see lightning strikes to buildings, to power lines to high tech companies. All this is amazing and increasing in the future, and we will see more airplanes, more ships being struck by lightning as they cross areas where lightning is more abandoned. So what can we do about this? In my feeling, it’s it’s, an emotion state that our planet is in danger, something bad is happening when i was looking at the planet from space. You see this blue marble, beautiful blue planet, and actually it resonates very well with the ancient greek mythology concept of the gaia gaia’s, the embodiment of all natural life, the mother of creation, the mother of living creatures and it’s, a synonym with a blue beautiful planet and Gaia was also a theory, a hypothesis raised by in the 1970s by lynn, margulis and james lovelock.
That said, that all living organisms are interconnected with the earth systems that create a system that self generates and regulates its conditions, such that it will support the existence of life. And i really like this theory even today, and we see that when we perturb gaia, we perturb the planet. It will come back at us tenfold no surprise here and actually this is what we have been doing since the early 19th century we’ve been burning, fossil fuels and increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and temperatures are rising on the planet and climate is changing and We can already see the results of those changes. We can see ice polar ice melting very quickly. We can see the receding of mountain glaciers such that the snow line is coming higher. All this is really bringing us the question to ponder. Are we really going to burn down our own house? We have impacted the biosphere in such a severe way, depleting natural resources, drying out lakes and water beds such that living creatures cannot adapt quickly enough to what’s going on and they are destroyed many species. The biodiversity is being hampered and minimized because of climate change, probably caused by us, and when we think of this, do you think the planet will stand still? Some may think. Well, the response of the planet is something we can call gaia’s revenge, but this is, of course, a human term. We attribute human properties to a system that has no consciousness, it’s, just the planet.
That is changing and we are powerless to be honest. We are powerless against the powers of nature, for if i take back by example of lightning a single lightning flash has the energy to light up an entire city for weeks. And if you look at a hurricane or a typhoon, the wind energy accumulated totally in such a storm can light up a country for weeks. So we are actually powerless against nature and its energy that is released at us in many many forms. But we must ask ourselves: what can we do? Should we just give up? We should actually prepare and establish resilience, because future generations will have it harder. Climate is not stopping. It will be more more fierce, more severe, so that’s the reality and we need to get ready. Gaia will not relent, but maybe just maybe we can harness this into a different game. Maybe we can actually use those powers of nature. This free electrical energy in the sky and attract it and use it to our benefits. Maybe we can revert using fossil fuels and use electrical energy coming back from the sky now. This is a very interesting and challenging idea, because lighting is so hard to predict, but honestly, in the last couple of years, we’ve become very good at predicting lightning. We know using machine learning and ai and some basic atmospheric physics to tell where lighting will strike in the next three hours with 80 accuracy, that’s amazing, of course, we don’t know precisely where it will hit us, but guys this is a good approximation of where lightning Can occur and where we can work to take those electricity uh from the sky, so there’s a challenge, an engineering challenge for you to think about.
Maybe we should have a lightning field. Maybe we should shoot up rockets into the clouds and take this electrical energy and store it. So if storage energy moves fast enough, we can perhaps revert to this um bountiful amount of energy that is just there in the sky, in the clouds. Every day, as i said 50 times per second imagine that in my favorite science fiction film, the hero marty mcfly uses the delorean car to fly back from 1955, where he was trapped into the future, which was then 1985.. He did that because the professor doc brown knew exactly where a lightning strike will occur at 10, 04 pm it struck the church tower and the electrical energy 10 gigawatts of energy was pumped into the car. Such the hero could fly back to the present, which he was the future at the time. So my talk was not about science fiction and not about time travel. My sole purpose was just to ignite your curiosity, i’m. Not going to give you advice how to appease the wrath of gaia, you can read about it. There are many many websites and actions that you need to take, and i urge you to do that. My sole purpose is to show you what’s going on ignite.